Page 1

International Journal of Adolescence and Youth

ISSN: 0267-3843 (Print) 2164-4527 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rady20

Windsor Terrace Profile: A Failure of Basic Policy During the 1980s Joseph J. Pilotta , Timothy Widman , Susan Jasko & Kristan Endress To cite this article: Joseph J. Pilotta , Timothy Widman , Susan Jasko & Kristan Endress (1991) Windsor Terrace Profile: A Failure of Basic Policy During the 1980s, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 3:1-2, 163-179, DOI: 10.1080/02673843.1991.9747701 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/02673843.1991.9747701

Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC

Published online: 27 Mar 2012.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 330

View related articles

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rady20


Windsor Terrace Profile: A Failure of Basic Policy During the 1980s Joseph J. Pilotta, Timothy Widman, Susan Jasko and Kristan Endress Urban Consortium, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1177, USA.

ABSTRACT This paper deals with drug abuse among minority youth in an economically depressed community. The authors stress that the traditional anti-drug rhetoric does not prevent drug use in oppressed areas. The paper concludes that communities must provide positive and productive alternatives to drug use. Such a strategy must emphasize the development of human potential, as opposed to traditional alcohol and drug prevention programs.

An awareness of the drug economy and the danger associated with it are a part of anti-drug campaigns. But what is needed is not more anti-drug rhetoric but personal security and economic alternatives, in particular, for the youth of the central city. What needs to be done is to develop productive community organization nof organized around anti-drug or even anti-crime policies, and thus provide positive and productive alternatives to drug involvement. Development must focus on human potential, not threats. But most of our anti-drug programs are of the 'Thou Shalt Not' variety, and their messages are rife with hopelessness. Moreover, these campaigns accept unfounded themes and uninformed middle class welfare wisdom about poverty. It has become truth, or public fiction, that the poor and central city delinquent youth and welfare moms can be viewed as involved in a cycle or a culture of poverty. Therefore, a middle class ideology has been perpetrated about the inner city. This historical 'continuation theory' of lower-class values ignores the extent to which lower-class and 'delinquent' cultures are predictable response to conditions in our society rather than persisting patterns (Cloward and Ohlin, 1960). 163


164

Another common public fiction is that lower-class Black marriages consist of a succession of mates (Liebow, 1967). Indeed it might be more profitable for us to look upon marriage and the family as a succession of failures, rather than a succession of mates (Lie bow, 1967). It is important not to confuse basic life chances and actual behavior with cultural values and preferences. Social change should be predicted on conditions and perceptions of the behaviors, rather than focusing on different class cultural values. Such a frame of reference can bring into clearer focus the practical points for productive social-economic change in the central city area. This problem does not have to be viewed in terms of breaking a vicious cycle, changing values, or disrupting the level of communication between adult and child, so that parents can make children in their own image. No doubt each generation provides a role model for each succeeding one. Of much greater importance is the fact that many similarities between lower class Blacksfather/sons or mother/daughters-do not result from cultural transmission, but the fact that the son goes out and independently experiences the same failure, and for much the same resons as his father (Liebow, 1967). What appears to be a self-sustaining cultural problem is, in part a result of social interaction. The problem is how to change the social conditions. By guaranteeing failure, the son and daughter come to be made in the image of father and mother. This viewpoint does not reduce the importance of drug problems, but does serve to place them in a more treatable context of economics, politics and social welfare. No one pretends that reducing drug use is going to be easy and accomplished at one fell stroke. Attacking drugs will require providing jobs. But supplying employment may no longer be sufficient. Before a person can earn a living, he or she must believe this is possible. The actions of our Federal government over the last 10-15 years has not supplied that hope. The following are partial findings of our larger study describing the problem and the failure of our institutions to create economic justice.

INTRODUCTION The initial charge of the research was to employ communitybased, qualitative research techniques to assess the 'root causes' of social stress within Windsor Terrace at the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (Murphy and Pilotta, 1983a). To complete this task, interviews were conducted with Windsor managers, VISTA volunteers, and residents to review their


165

perceptions of services and what they thought needed to be done to improve service delivery at Windsor Terrace. Soon after beginning the actual interviews in the late summer of 1988, a much broader question became apparent: what do people think is going on at Windsor Terrace? But, in any case, there are two different ways of framing the same question. Windsor Terrace is a stress-filled environment by ordinary standards. But, nonetheless, this is an environment to which the residents have adapted reasonably well, perhaps too well. Indeed, Windsor Terrace residents are often regarded by outsiders, and sometimes viewed by one another, as apathetic, complacent and docile. Windsor Terrace is not governed by ordinary social rules, and its residents tend not to arrange their lives or direct the upbringing of their children according to the usual views of education, employment, acquisition, and attainment. The indisputable and most uncompromising fact of everyday life at Windsor Terrace is that this social setting is governed by its own rules and social practices, and further that residing at Windsor entails a style of life and a way of thinking that diverge significantly from mainstream attitudes and practices. A significant period of time was needed to develop trust between the researchers and Windsor residents. Trust-especially in the case of outsiders, managers, and white folks-is a scarce commodity at Windsor. The first introduction to Windsor residents revealed that people come and go, programs start up and disappear, and promises get made that are quietly forgotten. And, more important, the whole planning process is mysterious to the average resident. Researchers, services, and programs unexpectedly disappear and are never seen again. Nevertheless, between mid-August 1988 and May 1989 a pattern of recurring themes did emerge from a series of casual conversations, telephone calls, observations, and actual interviews. The research yielded a rich texture of conversations, ideas, and evaluations that came directly from the members of the Windsor Terrace community. Considering the basic thrust of community-based research, the aim was to reconstruct how community members viewed their situation (Murphy and Pilotta, 1983a).

METHOD The research method employed is a community-based, qualitative technique. This approach has been employed and refined for research at the Urban Consortium for Human Services Develop-


166

ment over a period of approximately 8 years (Murphy and Pilotta, 1983b). While the technique is not unique to the Urban Consortium, this approach has been practiced by Urban Consortium researchers during years of research with minority, inner-city, and low to moderate income populations in Columbus, Ohio. Between August 1988 and May 1989, seventy-five interviews were conducted with individuals and small (2-3 individuals) groups, in addition to more than 250 hours of observations, meetings, and informal discussions. All interviews and discussions about perceptions, policies, programs, and people were conducted under a pledge of confidentiality. Neither interviews nor informal discussions were tape recorded. Interviews, not to mention the research project in general, were guided by referrals, social networks, and the gradual disclosure of common themes. Initial questions were used as guide posts for actual interviews, but, as the situation warranted, discussions frequently expanded into related and sometimes unexpected topics (Murphy and Pilotta, 1983b). Regular evaluation of the progress of the research, along with the direction of both the content and the targets for further interviews, was undertaken by the authors. In addition, evaluations and assessments of the key themes were regular topics of discussion between the principal researchers and the project director. And finally, an assortment of tentative evaluations and 'trial balloons' were floated by informants by re-contacting them for follow-up discussion, in order to confirm the researchers assessment of important themes and viewpoints. Additional information was gathered through direct observation of the activities at Windsor Terrace, including events in the Community Affairs office, the activities of various service providers, and the relationships between tenants and service providers and the tenants with one another. The rationale for this procedure is to identify multiple avenues for confirming/disconfirming informant proposals and researcher assessments (Murphy and Pilotta, 1983b). Furthermore, the aim is to accomplish these tasks in a way that does not violate performance expectations that regularly invade the interview setting. The underlying conceptual justification and mechanism for establishing the credibility of a community-based study is provided by the assumption that the research activity is geared to generate a focus for community development (Murphy and Pilotta, 1983b). The social action setting enables the researcher to establish an environment where cooperation and confidence allow access to much needed information.


167

PERCEPTIONS OF THE ENVIRONMENT Not surprisingly, the residents' perceptions of their physical environment reflects the rather stark and drab atmosphere created by buildings designed for public housing (Newman, 1972). More specifically, residents want many of the same home improvements as any tenant in low to moderate housing might desire: renovated showers, new carpeting, updated kitchen appliances, and changes in the exterior appearance of the units, including the creation of secured garden spaces and a way to keep the dumpster areas clean. Some residents also expressed concern over a lack of supervised and secured recreational facilities for young children. The psychological environment is best summarized as one of great distrust and social isolation. There is also a sense of isolation from the surrounding Linden community, and an outright sense of alienation from the city as a whole. These two themes are exhibited in a variety of ways. Suspicion is widespread and nearly global. There is distrust of CMHA personnel, social service personnel, of each other, and of all whites. In other words, there is little informal warehousing or pooling of information, so that the community might become selfreliant. The distrust of each other also appears in the relationships between males and females, which tend to be transitory and sexually oriented (Dash, 1989). While this is neither unique to this group nor even inherently negative, in the Windsor setting this pattern results in economic and psychological dependency among the female heads of households. The dependence is not on males as providers or as contributors to the household, but on a system which economically rewards reproduction. Apparently, some time during early adolescence females opt for pregnancy as a declaration of independence and as a sort of economically-based career choice. The residents describe this activity in the following way: young women adolescents have infants, drop out of school, and live with their mothers (who in some cases treat their grandchildren as their children) until they reach the legal age to apply for their own apartments (Hooks, 1989). Adolescent males, on the other hand, opt for impregnating young women, but remain socially bonded with other young men, and hustle drugs, acquire temporary marginal employment or just 'hang out.' The point is that adolescent females tend to become single heads of households who are economically dependent on the social welfare system. Adolescent males grow up to live on the periphery of the system that supported them in their childhood, and which


168

now supports the mothers of their children. The ordinary household, namely, two married parents with children, is discouraged as a basic economic unit. However, the conditions for a self-sufficient household headed by a single (female) parent do not exist: neither crucial employability skills, home management skills, nor role models for independent living are present. Given these circumstances, the marriage bond in the ordinary sense does not offer a solution to the cycle of dependency. Indeed, the traditional nuclear family does not offer a very useful model for understanding the practical day-to-day lives of Windsor residents. Moreover, the social welfare system provides incentives to form single (female) parent households. Low educational attainment combines with the lack of economic opportunity to mitigate against two-parent homes. One of the significant ramifications of being socialized into a familial system of this sort is that adult males and females are unable to form a primary bond. For example, among the white middle class of this country, a single, economically self-sufficient adult female is not thought to be capable of satisfactorily rearing a child. Yet this fate is not uncommon to the residents of public housing across this country (Battle, 1987). At the same time that single parenting is an accepted, taken-for-granted social practice in public housing communities like Windsor Terrace, the role models for single parenting and the support system for rearing children are not geared toward the independence of the household, but to meeting the qualifications for entitlement benefits. This sort of social dissonance makes the transition from welfare to economic self-sufficiency all the more problematic, especially for youth. As a consequence, residents live in a world that has only limited horizons (Miller and Riessman, 1961). That is, their sense of the future is abbreviated because their possibilities are defined by services delivered to them through government agencies, social service programs, or church related groups. The parents' sense of the future is passed on to their children and to the following generation. Similarly, mothers seem to focus on what they do not wish for their children, and not (as is common among the working and middle class parents) on the child's possibilities. Many women dread the very real possibility of seeing a child (male) selling or running drugs in order to obtain income. However, parents do not talk much about the future of their children in terms of education and/or careers. The closest expression of this sentiment was made by a young woman who said she hoped her children might 'get a good job and maybe move out of here'. Some final summary points about the environment are evident


169

from 1980 Census Data. In South Linden (where Windsor Terrace is located), the poverty rate is 25.4% for Whites and 33.2% for Blacks. Of the total number of families living below the poverty level, 68.9% are single female headed households. Concurrently, only 50.3% of the Black adults, 25 years of age or older, were high school graduates, while an estimated 22.9% of the youth (ages 16-19) were deemed high school dropouts. These figures from South Linden are simple measures for some of the more salient features of Windsor Terrace: low income, single female households with high unemployment and limited educational attainment (Census Data, 1985). Windsor Terrace (1988) demographic information extends the overall picture: the average tenant has completed nine years of school, depends on public assistance, and has an approximately 30% likelihood of being involved in substance abuse.

ENTITLEMENT ECONOMY As a general proposition, the primary socializing mechanism for Windsor Terrace residents are entitlement-related incentives. Approximately 90% of the tenants receive AFDC*, welfare, or an assortment of other public assistance and human service benefits. As the consequence, the principal power holders and most visible role models in this environment are human service functionaries. The role of the human service/public assistance providers is to dispense entitlements; the role of entitlement recipients is to exhibit behaviors and perform social welfare functions that ensure the uninterrupted flow of entitlement funds. The entitlement economy is one of the two economies at Windsor Terrace. The other economy is an illegitimate one and relates to the sale of drugs. Despite representing a parody of the work economy, the entitlement economy works in very much the same way. The key difference is that entitlements are substituted for capital. Entitlement recipients are expected to live up to a set of expectations in exchange for goods and services. Receiving entitlements thus becomes an occupation, and the entitlement life-style a way of life. A striking example of how the entitlement mentality pervades the fabric of Windsor Terrace is provided by the Windsor Terrace Community Affairs office. The office has been established, according to Community Affairs VISTA staff, to identify and 'bring in' human services for the Windsor community and/or to * AFDC (Aid for Families with Dependent Children)


170

'advocate for the poor'. Clearly, the Windsor Community Affairs Office is a well-run conduit for service delivery, and provides a nascent, informal mechanism for social networking. Community Affairs staff offer crucial support for service deliverers, principally in the form of coordinating services, supplying 'insider' information, and creating credibility for providers within the population. Windsor Community Affairs has also taken on the role of giving much needed moral support and some technical assistance to concerned mothers. The consensus is that Community Affairs' job is to deliver services and to solve problems. In the case of the latter, Community Affairs is used as a one-step crisis intervention center. When someone needs assistance, a call is placed to Community Affairs for either direct help or for a referral. Considering the situation, Community Affairs has an important social maintenance function. It has become the center of the community's infrastructure. Besides these tangible benefits, Windsor Community Affairs has been defined by the general population as part of the service provision network. The tenants use Community Affairs as another outlet to get things done for them. But since 'having things done for them' has become such a part of their lives, the Windsor community Affairs ends up reinforcing the view that tenants are the recipients of entitlement goods and services. Windsor Community Affairs embodies the paradox created by entitlements. On the one hand, genuine progress has been made by this agency in coordinating and improving the delivery of much needed social and human services to a depressed community. Yet the more services that are available the higher the expectations of the tenants become, and the less likely are these persons to demand change. But, what is perhaps most important among tenants is the assumption that the initiative for the various programs at Windsor originated at the Housing Authority Central Office. This does not mean that these programs are unimportant or that they do not meet needs in the community, but that these are initiatives that have not come from the community. In other words, even where programs create improvements the community remains passive and dependent. Another way of looking at the social-psychology encountered at Windsor is characterized by the expression 'Welfare Rights' (Burtless, 1984). Putting the politics and management aspect of this notion aside, what this idea means in concrete economic terms is the right to be poor. The issues and perceptions disclosed and discussed by Windsor tenants fell into two general categories:


171

(1) what and how much they need to have done for them, and (2) the desirability of having money.

The first category was discussed extensively: environmental improvements, activities for children, solutions to drug problems, adequate medical services, etc. But confidence was not generated in the listener that the entitlement recipients have a sense of being in control of their own lives, nor did they indicate that they could some day assume this control. The second category was accompanied by unreal expectations. No individuals were encountered who aspire to working class status. Their aims are replete with fantasy. For instance, annual incomes of 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars and more were cited. Economic attitudes are not shaped by working class expectations, but by images mediated by television (Gerbner, 1986). The most common reference were to TV game shows, sports, entertainment celebrities, TV soap operas, and the 'Ohio Lottery'. Windsor Terrace tenants are not regularly exposed to the working class or their neighborhoods. Also, the entitlement economy fosters a social structure that differs significantly from the mainstream society. While in working culture individuals trade their labor, knowledge, skills, and time for income, welfare recipients trade their time, energy and incapacities or underutilized abilities for social support. Furthermore, employed persons enjoy the privilege of deploying their incomes at their own discretion within the constraints established by income level and credit rating. But welfare recipients have marginal discretionary freedom in deciding how their income is allocated. This creates two related conditions: (1) entitlement recipients feel powerless to control virtually any aspect of their economic existence, and (2) they do not develop a sense of responsibility for the direction of their own present, much less their own future. Most important is that the missing element that would give the social and human service programs at Windsor Terrace direction and coherence is the motivation for securing and building economic opportunity and achieving security for oneself and one's family (Liebow, 1967). The ability to manage one's day to day affairs, while working to build a future for oneself and one's family, is a skill that one learns and develops. But entitlement requires passivity and subordination, and demands incapacity (real or apparent) as the qualification for receiving economic rewards from society. The net result is a group of individuals-and not a genuine community-who are segregated from mainstream society and who are largely unprepared for work. Therefore, while providing employment opportunities is the necessary precondition for mainstreaming this population, employment alone is far from a sufficient


172

condition. Dropping these people into jobs without providing auxiliary support and supervision will not be very productive. Having been reared to embrace a work culture, an individual sees the world as a composite of opportunities and obstacles for individual achievement. In the entitlement economy, however, self-reliance is not a function of individual economic action, but of adhering to the expectations established by the social support system. Earning income is something others do, and is not considered to be a viable option. In effect, the socially legitimate avenues for mobility are effectively blocked in the entitlement economy. Consequently, many individuals with creativity, the ability to learn quickly, and entrepreneurial drive to the only genuine avenue available for assuming responsibility for their lives: the underworld economy of drugs. A final observation about the entitlement economy is in order. What has been called the 'entitlement economy' is a nearly pure case of a flow-through consumer economy. Dollars, entitlement vouchers and food stamps do not generate wealth for the inhabitants of Windsor Terrace. The residents of Windsor constitute little more than middlemen for public dollars that actually support human service providers, physicians, public service employees, business establishments located at the borders of Windsor, farmers, and community centers. Most important is that neither economic wealth nor vital social attitudes like honesty, industriousness, or trust are encouraged, because 'purchasing power' is determined entirely by outsiders. Dollars are not earned, but simply spent by residents.

THE DRUG ECONOMY The stark reality is that the quasi-underworld economy of dealing illegal substances, especially 'crack', is well-entrenched in the public housing community (Pilotta, 1989). Selling drugs is the only stable and readily accessible alternative form of income, excluding public support. This is true, in part, because the current welfare system penalizes even partial, or low-paying, employment by reducing benefits. Successful drug trafficking requires intelligent planning, creativity and initiative, and it yields lucrative benefits. In fact, many of the same personality characteristics and social skills that make for a successful drug dealer also make for success on Wall Street, or a career in the corporate world. Windsor residents either implicitly or explicitly acknowledged the illegal drug economy as a key aspect of their environment. This


173

is not to suggest that the residents are undisturbed by this situation. Quite the contrary: one young mother told us she was anxious that her young son would soon discover that aiding in the sale of drugs was very profitable. Through this and similar discussions with other residents, adolescent males were shown to have little or no opportunity to earn disposable income. Transportation is scarce and there are few businesses in the immediate vicinity to provide employment. As a result, these adolescents gravitate toward drug trafficking. Of course, not all or even most of the Windsor population actively participates in the drug trade. And, although these residents may be opposed to this activity, they are all too aware of the genuine dangers associated with any anti-drug or anti-crime efforts. Drug trafficking is often a violent business. In part because of this, past attempts to galvanize the community around anti-drug campaigns have failed and, in our opinion, will continue to fail. As more than one resident stated, 'our community is well aware of the dangers associated with drugs, but what we need is not more anti-drug education or propaganda, but personal security and economic alternatives, especially for our youth.' Clearly, if a robust sense of community and a community organization are to be developed at Windsor, these goals must not be associated with an anti-drug, or even an anti-crime theme. Instead, a productive life style can be fostered only by positive and productive alternatives to drug involvement of any kind. As noted earlier, community development needs to focus on potential, not on threats. Instead of telling residents 'don't use drugs', the message should be 'do these things ... '. The residents need to develop alternative life styles, which help to make real sense of the anti-drug messages to which they are exposed at school or through mass media. Policy makers should note that their message is interpreted to mean more than 'don't do drugs'. 'Do nothing,' 'Don't congregate in large groups, because it makes white folks nervous,' and 'Don't leave the neighborhood, because you don't have any money, and no one wants you loitering around' are how the anti-drug slogans are translated at Windsor. The attitudes encountered about the drug problem can be summarized in the following way: 1. Drugs, however reprehensible, are simply a part of the environment, in the same manner as the possibility of contracting a deadly disease, like cancer, is feared but is a part of life. 2. Even though they are not quick to express fear or a sense of feeling personally threatened, most Windsor


174

residents are clearly intimidated by drug trafffckers. As a group, Windsor residents are unwilling to cooperate openly with law enforcement authorities. 3. Mothers, while eager to have their children educated about the hazards of drugs, do not exhibit much confidence that there is any strong connection between drug education and a drug-free life style. 4. The presence of the drug culture promotes social disunity by creating suspicions between residents and reducing their willingness to confide in or depend on one another. The drug dealers are 'organized', and this organization inhibits other forms of social organization. 5. Drug dollars represent real disposable income, and this money translates into social status. 6. Drug and law enforcement officials are not really serious about forcing out the drug dealers. (Or if they are serious, they are incompetent.) In light of this situation, any direct assault on the drug economy that depends on cooperation from Windsor residents is not practical. The low morale, lack of self-confidence, social disunity, absence of economic alternatives, and the deteriorating physical environment at Windsor Terrace-one might generalize to public housing as a whole-make this an excellent setting for drug trafficking. Windsor residents should not be expected to shoulder the burden for ridding this community of drugs. Of course, ultimately the responsibility for making successful inroads against the drug economy depends on each individual and the collective initiative of the community. But, while acknowledging this truism, solving this problem is much more complicated than simply telling the Windsor Terrace community to 'say no' to drugs. Quite simply, the social economics of the environment provides fertile soil for illegal activities, and the population is suspicious of drug enforcement pronouncements made by authorities (Lewis, 1979). In the final analysis, no 'outsider' can solve the drug problem for the community, but what authorities can do is improve both economic opportunity and increase the credibility of drug enforcement. The drug economy appears to be as much a natural part of the public housing milieu as generations of single female heads of households with multiple children. What appears to be needed is a vigorous and aggressive drug enforcement policy that is mounted by forces from outside of Windsor Terrce. Such an initiative, if it appears to represent a long-term commitment, will receive the


175

approval of many or most of the Windsor residents. Programs aimed at drug education and community crime prevention will have an appreciable impact only if Windsor residents can be spared the uncertainty and social ostracism that often accompanies selfpolicing. The social fabric at Windsor Terrace is much too fragile to survive the strain of law enforcement obligations (Lewis, 1979). Windsor tenants are not indifferent to the drug problem, much less supportive of the drug culture. These persons feel that they have been abandoned by the system. Lacking social resources and policing capabilities, they have been made the targets of anti-drug proclamations and public policy rhetoric. If there is one area where cold, deep-seated and realistic cynicism among Windsor residents was encountered, it was related to drug trade and law enforcement. Windsor residents will 'wait out' any anti-drug initiative to see if it is real or only an apparent and short-lived effort. What needs to be done is to involve Windsor tenants in the creation of activities, programs, and social practices that exclude drugs and drug users, and which exclude talk about drug money and drugs in general. At the same time, an alternative economy must be stimulated. An economy is needed that is not only unrelated to drug use, but one that also encourages attitudes and values that are divorced from drugs. Economic activity that creates wealth in the community offers a genuinely anti-drug antidote and an alternative to social differentiation (Luhmann, 1982). Hundreds of research and demonstration projects have shown how social change can be inaugurated. What is lacking is not know-how and programs, but a clarity of purpose, motive and intention.

CONCLUSION The question needs to be asked: Why has there not been a comprehensive intervention program initiated in Public Housing? The answer appears to lie at the political level with the recycling of the 'culture of poverty' thesis, in the guise of the New Federalism, or, in other terms, the self-help policy of Reagan administration. This posture has culminated in non-intervention. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the work of Elizabeth Bott, Hylan Lewis, Richard Cloward, and Lloyd Ohlin cast serious doubt on the 'culture' and 'historical continuity' constructs as useful for dealing with lower-class behavior. 'It is probably more fruitful to think of lower class families as reacting in various ways to the facts


176

of their position and to relative isolation, rather than to the imperatives of a lower class culture' (Lewis, 1967; p. 43). Additionally, according to Cloward and Ohlin, 'the historical continuity theory of lower-class values reports the extent to which lower-class and delinquent cultures are predictable responses to conditions in our society, rather than persisting problems' (Cloward and Ohlin; p. 75). In 1957, Batt directly challenged the use of the culture concept, saying 'I do not believe it is sufficient to explain variations ... as cultural or sub-cultural differences. To say that people behave differently or have different expectations because they belong to different cultures amounts to no more than saying they behave differently' (Bott, 1957; p. 18). And it was Lie bow's classic work, Tally's Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men, which finally put these theses to rest. At least within the intellectual community, 'an attempt was made to see the man as he sees himself, to compare what he says with what he does, and to explain his behavior as a direct response to the conditions of lower-class Negro life rather than mute compliance with historical or cultural imperatives' (Liebow, 1967; p. 208). Persistent poverty is not necessarily the result of bad luck or bad candidates at the Federal level. This condition, instead, is the product of both the New Deal and Reaganomics. The vision imparted by Franklin Roosevelt in the New Deal contained three tenets. 1. Increases in expenditures or tax cuts, inspired by Keynes, would be used to prevent depressions or deep recessions. 2. A social safety net in the form of social security, unemployment insurance, health insurance, etc., should be established to help the poor. But, even more important, these same programs should reduce economic uncertainties for the middle class. The middle class would not have to worry about falling into poverty due to illness, unemployment, or old age. 3. A commitment to equal access to education and training would open up economic opportunities for everyone, especially for victims of race discrimination.

In light of these commitments, the New Deal democrats can be said to have created the American middle class. The Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson can be viewed as the telos of the New Deal. With the Great Society programs in place,'more of the same' no longer made sense. It was not that social welfare policies failed. Rather, they succeeded but came to rest at their rational limits.


177

Take, for instance, the drive for equal opportunity in education. The percentage of the population with a high school diploma has doubled since the 1930s and currently is approaching 90%. In a half century, a college education is no longer only for the rich, but something half of all high school graduates begin and 25% finish. Americans have become aware that education needs to be greatly improved, but that is a problem quite different from simple expansion. It can be demonstrated statistically that an equal opportunity society has not yet been created. After correcting for education and experience, the average Black, Hispanic or female is still paid less than a comparable white male. But the gross visible abuses have vanished, as these groups have gained new employment opportunities, and since no-one is explicitly denied the right to vote. While Affirmative Action programs are necessary to achieve equal access in areas where individual discrimination cannot be proved, this strategy does not necessarily increase economic opportunities. A much broader and novel policy is necessary to expand the economy. As a result, Affirmative Action programs are not viewed as beneficial, even by those who may benefit from this policy. President Reagan dismantled the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but won the female vote. The answer is not to abandon the goal of real equality, but to develop the~e programs in an economy where the negative side effects on innocent bystanders are minimized. Affirmative action in a no-growth economy is very different from inaugurating this practice in a rapidly growing economy. But Americans are uncomfortable talking about equity or economic fairness. They are willing to help people in need, but they do not think about economic justice in the larger context. Public housing is constantly viewed as a welfare program, while the tenants are believed to be the recipients of Federal'giveaway' projects. The rising incidence of poverty is not caused by transfer payment programs that work to encourage people to become poor in order to be eligible for benefits. Rather, an economy that did not performed in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is to be blamed (Gottschalk, 1984). Job training programs failed to stem the rise in poverty, not because they failed to train people, but because they were too small to make any significant impact, and because there were no jobs to be filled in the period between 1979-1982 (Burtless, 1984). None the less, one would think there would be less political resistance to job programs than to welfare programs, and this is true. To the general public, however, the opposite is true when it


178

comes to special interest groups. Special interest groups are generally producer groups, and are generally more willing to see tax revenues spent to expand welfare programs than they are to see the government actively working to alter the distribution of earnings. Producer groups pay only a part of the highl'r taxes to finance welfare payments, but any restructuring of the economy to produce jobs or a more equitable distribution of earnings is perceived as a threat to the status quo. During the Nixon administration, an implicit compromise was reached Programs would be expanded to help the poor. These would be welfare programs, not programs which would fundamentally restructure the economy. After correcting for inflation, income transfer payments to persons rose 156% in the eight Nixon-Ford years. This rise was more than twice that which occurred in the eight years of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (Economic Report of the President, 1984). President Reagan was not willing to extend the im~licit compromise made by Nixon and Ford. Indeed, he included as one of his campaign themes attacks on the 'welfare mentality.' Essentially, if one believes that welfare programs have failed, one need not feel guilty about people being hurt by cutting back on welfare expenditures and eliminating certain programs. The fundamental belief of the Reagan administration was that social institutions and structured arrangements either do not matter or take care of themselves. 'Get the government out of the economy and off the backs of the people.' Underlying this political battle cry is the belief that competition fosters the best possible institutional arrangements. The logic expressed is 'if it was not efficient, it would not exist. Since it exists, it must be efficient. If there is a better way to do things, that way will surface to drive inferior methods out of existence.' Therefore, as the argument goes, societies do not have to make deliberate changes in order to bett,~r institutional arrangements and social organization. Change for the 'good' will occur naturally. Americans merely need to stand aside and 'let free enterprise, self-help, do its thing.' In this manner, the culture of poverty thesis is recycled, not as a new set of problems, but to legitimize the zero-sum solution proposed by Reagan. What is needed, in sum, is a policy that fosters both growth and fairness. Yet such a proposal is nowhere in sight. REFERENCES Battle, S. (1987). The Black adolescent parent. Gamforth Press; Raleigh. Bott, E. (1957). Family and social networks. Tavistock; London.


179 Burt less, G. (1984). Public spending for the poor: trends, prospects and economic limits. IRP Conference Paper, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Cloward, K. and L. Ohlin. (1960a). Delinquency and opportunity: a theory of delinquent gangs. Free Press; Glencoe. Danzinger, E. (1984). Anti-poverty policy: effects on the poor and the nonpoor. IRP Conference Paper, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dash, L. (1989). When children want children. William Morrow; New York. Economic Report of the President, 1984. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M. and Signorielli, N. (1986). Living with television: the dynamics of the cultivation process. In Perspectives on media effects {J. Bryant and D. Zillmann, eds.) pp. 17 040. N.J.: Lawrence Earlbaum; Hillsdale. Gottschalk, A. (1984). Macroeconomic conditions, income transfers and the nonpoor. IRP Series: University of Wisconsin, Madison. Hooks, B. (1989). Talking back; thinking feminist; thinking black. South End Press; Boston. Lewis, D. (1979). Design problems in public policy development: the case of the community anti-crime program. Criminology, 17(2); 172-83. Liebow, E. (1967). Tally's Corner. Little/Brown; Boston. Luhmann, N. (1982). The differentiation of society. Columbia University Press; New York. Miller, S. and Riessman, F. (1961). The working class subculture. Social Problems, 12(1); 86-97. Murphy, J. and Pilotta, J. (1983a). Community-based evaluation for criminal justice planning. Social Service Review, 57(3); 465-477. Murphy, J. and Pilotta, ]. (1983b). Qualitative methodology; theory and application. Kendall Hunt; Dubuque. NBC News Decision (1984). General election poll results. Newmann, 0. (1972). Defensible Space. MacMillan; New York. Pilotta, J. (1989). Streetcorner Man. Main Street Business journal. Columbus, OH.

1991 A B Academic Publishers Printed in Great Britain

Š

Windsor Terrace Profile, Academic Article  

Windsor Terrace Profile: A Failure of Basic Policy During the 1980s

Windsor Terrace Profile, Academic Article  

Windsor Terrace Profile: A Failure of Basic Policy During the 1980s

Advertisement