I must disclose that I have always considered myself to be privileged. I was raised by a family that loves and supports me. Growing up, I never had to worry about where I would sleep at night or how I would get my next meal. To me, that is privilege. Why, then, does Cornell make me feel so poor?
Data from the University show that financial aid policy has taken several turns in the past decade, and in the past five years, loans have increased significantly, while grant aid has stayed roughly similar relative to the increase in loans.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson launched his famed War on Poverty, declaring: “This Administration, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty.” From the time that Johnson made this declaration, the federal government has spent an estimated $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs — and the level of success of these programs is highly debatable. Certainly, Johnson’s war had a major effect on senior citizens, as the poverty rate for the elderly declined nearly 18 percent between 1964 and 2015. However, total poverty rates declined less than three percent between 1964 and 2015. Today, 14.5 percent of Americans (nearly 47 million people) live below the poverty line, while the youth poverty rate has reached a stunning 20 percent.
What these numbers do not tell is the story behind America’s poor.
I should say that I don’t know hunger. Hungry, yes, I know that. Hungry like a missed meal; hungry that’s unpleasant, but whose edge is always cut by the knowledge that it won’t last. But hunger as a state of being or as a mindset, in which the next meal is defined not by its contents, but by its uncertainty — no, I don’t know anything about that. Really though, I just don’t know poor.
Deputy Provost and Sociology Professor David Harris felt that previous books correlating race and poverty failed to accurately and completely identify the mechanisms that lead to the existing socioeconomic race disparities. To address these shortcomings, he wrote a book entitled The Colors of Poverty: Why Racial and Ethnic Disparities Exist. During a lecture yesterday, Harris discussed the analysis of his book as well as how it was composed.
As deputy provost, Harris focuses on University diversity, admissions and financial aid. Harris is also responsible for enhancing the profile of social sciences at the University.
Life is hard. Making money is hard. Being on your own is hard. Recently, these messages have been ingrained into our brains from every media outlet and from all our friends that suddenly decided to forgo a financial career and take a stab at the LSATs. Therefore, it is difficult to sit through another movie that reiterates how depressing life can be without monetary resources. No wonder people willingly gravitated towards the dazzling, though excessively impractical, Slumdog Millionaire this past year for a fantastical escape.
This is the second part of a two-part series analyzing socioeconomic issues at Cornell and in the surrounding community.
When most Cornell students walk into Wegmans for a routine grocery run, they are not thinking about Ithaca’s homeless only a few hundred yards away.
The Jungle is a small tract of land located between the railroad tracks and the Lake Cayuga inlet that provides a safe haven and a sense of community for several of the city’s homeless.
The city has no jurisdiction to kick the residents off the land because the railroad owns the land; in fact, conductors on passing trains often throw water and supplies into the Jungle.