Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Transportation, work, and poverty in rural America

See this story on NPR today about the problems that keep poor people from breaking the cycle of poverty.   The headline is "One Family's Story Shows How the Cycle of Poverty is Hard to Break," and the dateline is Bath, New York, population 12,097, in nonmetropolitan (but micropolitan) Steuben County, population 98,650, in the western part of the state.  Pam Fessler's report paints a fairly detailed portrait of Desiree Metcalf, 24, a single mom to three young children.  Metcalf admits she's made some bad decisions, but she has also had some tough breaks--including an unstable childhood.   

Fessler reports that Metcalf recently trained as a nursing assistant but then lost her job because of lack of transportation.  It's not an uncommon issue for rural residents--especially rural women who are more economically precarious.  Fessler reports it this way:  
But she ran into a problem faced by many low-income workers: transportation. Her car was recently totaled by someone backing out of a driveway. 
"So now my vehicle is gone and [I] have no way to get back and forth to work reliably, and unfortunately, there's not much in this town as of work," she says. 
Mass transit is virtually nonexistent in this rural area.
I have written about lack of transportation for poor, rural residents here, here, here and here.   Fessler reported earlier this week from Painted Post, New York, population 1,782, under the headline, "The Changing Picture of Poverty:  Hard Work is 'Just Not Enough.'"  That story touched on the tough job market in the region in an era of rural restructuring, quoting Marsha Patrick, who runs the local HeadStart program:
Her program is trying to break the cycle [of poverty]. But Patrick says it's difficult, especially with factory jobs that used to support a middle class in this region disappearing in droves. 
"Unless we have those jobs to offer those folks, that they're going to feel good about and want to go to work for and do, the kids are going to be the ones who are suffering, and we're seeing it," she says.
The poverty rate in Steuben County is 15.1%.

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