The primary causes of poverty lie not in individual behavior at all, but in specific social and historical structures, in forces outside any single person’s control. If you haven’t lived it or even seen it firsthand, there’s almost no way to imagine it. Living in the ghetto, one faces problems with public housing, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the drug trade, negligent landlords, criminals, illness, guns, isolation, hunger, ethnic antagonisms, racism, and other obviously negative forces. Even forces that might seem positive in other circumstances- the law, the media, government, neighbors, police- can, in the ghetto context, make life miserable for the poor. And one has to contend will all of these forces- any one of which might be overwhelming- all at once, without a break. Turn to deal with one problem, and three attack you from behind. Experience a little unexpected bad luck, and you find yourself instantly drowning. The cumulative effect of the ‘surround’ is more than the sum of any of these individual forces. There is simply no space to breathe.

Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen by David Hilfiker, M.D, xii & xv

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