Before we continue, let me preface this by saying that I'm not an economist, sociologist, historian or any professional. I do my best to research properly, but I'm obviously not a scholar. This is just my observation, and how I've seen this issue affecting ME.
I'll give y'all some background. I grew up in poverty. My parents immigrated here from Mexico, and didn't have much. They had 9 children, and they rarely made more than minimum wage. We were never really stable, as a child I remember moving from apartment to apartment multiple times a year. We never really had furniture, we would fold covers and have makeshift beds. Our lights and gas would get cut off in the middle of winter. I remember teaching my brother to drink water to stop hunger pangs because there were many days we wouldn't eat. I also remember learning to drink milk through my teeth because there were roaches in the milk. I'm not saying this for "pity points", I'm just saying this because many people often tell me that I have "negative" opinions of poor people because I've never struggled. Not true at all, if anything I have these negative thoughts because I've experienced it first hand. I've always wondered why we were in poverty, and how to get out of it. I'm still in it.
So for quite a few years now, Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans have the highest poverty rates, 21.2%, 18.3%, and 25.4% respectively while the national average is 12.3%. I'll be focusing more on Latino and (a bit less) Black poverty, simply because it's more of what I've been around.
History of policies against Minorities
I know many of y'all will say that the past doesn't matter and we weren't alive when policies being created so they don't affect us. I'm not sure if I believe that, I'm not saying it's the sole or main reason, I'm just saying that it has lingering affects.
The obvious early policies against minorities, particularly black people, is slavery. Slavery kept black people back because they couldn't legally own property, get married, vote etc. I don't want to dwell too much on slavery, because it's been done to death. After slavery, there were still racist laws and policies that held black people back such as the infamous Jim Crow and segregation laws.
Minorities were often "redlined" which is "the practice of denying or limiting financial services to certain neighborhoods based on racial or ethnic composition without regard to the residents' qualifications or creditworthiness." This caused many blacks to be neglected housing, especially in suburbs. Wealth is more than just income, it is also assets like homes. By denying minorities access to housing, it caused a further divide in wealth disparity. Yes, there was a law in 1968 in attempt to remedy this, but its effects were already ravaging communities of colors.
I don't know to what extent this affects other families, but I do know how it affects my family. Not much if at all, since my family came from Mexico in the 80s, after many laws were passed. They also never bought homes.
Policies against Minorities today
In 1971, Nixon declared a War on Drugs. The War on Drugs notoriously failed (I'm not sure why the government doesn't just legalize drugs like with alcohol after its prohibition failed too), and it arguably hit minorities the hardest. Because of this, many minorities were incarcerated. Crack was given a harsher sentence than cocaine. Marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 Drug, which is one of the most serious categories by the DEA. Many states are working to decriminalize marijuana, and some even legalized it, but for many decades, it has caused the disproportionate incarceration of Blacks and Latinos.
This affects many minorities and has affected me because unfortunately some people in my family were involved in drug dealing and drug using. I don't want to give too many details, but due to aforementioned poverty struggles, drug dealing was seen as way to solve many of our financial issues. However, they did have run ins with the law, which ended up setting the family back. It probably ended up costing us the same amount that they made drug dealing in legal fees as well as time wasted incarcerated.
Since minorities are more likely to be incarcerated, we're also more likely to be felons. Because of this, many argue that felon discrimination prevents proper rehabilitation and holds our communities back. Organizations like Ban the Box are working to remove the felony question asked on applications for jobs, public assistance, etc. Florida even passed a law that restored some felons voting rights.
This affects many minorities because many minorities are former felons. This doesn't really affect my family because some of them were able to dodge felony charges. And the ones who were charged with felonies were deported.
Other policies that negatively affect us are many barriers in the form of over certification and regulations. I'm not against certification and licensing, I only support it if it's necessary. Many times, it isn't and communities of colors suffer. With the high cost of testing, (sometimes) yearly renewal fees, and the time it takes to acquire these certifications, it's no wonder people who are already in poverty have a hard time acquiring them. As an example, the requirement of certification to be a "hair braider" leads to lower African Americans becoming professional braiders.
Rent control and rent stabilization also negatively affect us as they promote dependency on renting vs home ownership. To begin with, many cities who have these policies control how high a landlord can charge rent, and/or how high it can increase rent on a tenant (usually a percent of total initial rent per year). Those who are able to secure a cheap apartment are therefore incentivized to stay in their apartments because their apartment is artificially cheap. There are also policies in place that make it extremely difficult for a property owner to either evict or not renew a lease.
However, those who aren't so lucky to secure a rent controlled apartment suffer as well. Because rent controlled areas also have many regulations and fees, as well as regulating how much you can charge for an apartment, investors are hesitant to build affordable housing and instead choose to build luxury housing in order to capitalize on their investments. This makes housing scarce, and the housing that is available luxury and at a high cost. San Francisco (and California) is notoriously suffering from this crisis and have one of the highest rates of homelessness. Chicago, New York and other areas with some form of rent control or rent stabilization also see this trend.
Another indirect way this affects us is because the only affordable housing we can find in or near the city tends to be in very bad neighborhoods, thus further concentrating poverty. This leads to lack of quality education, violence, and all the negatives associated with poverty.
Policies and programs that are meant to help us, in the end, hurt us - this is a trend we'll notice.
Government Assistance aka Welfare
Let me preface this portion by saying I'm NOT against welfare. I believe a social safety net IS necessary. I'm also not against many people on welfare. My family benefits from it.
For some reason this is controversial, but I feel that welfare causes more harm than it helps.
It's been stated that in order to make it to out of poverty, one should at least finish high school, work a full time job, and not have children or get married until 21. Those who do this have only a 2% chance of remaining in poverty (2%!), with most making it to the middle class - 75% making at least $55,000. Another controversial but very important aspect is the accumulation of assets and passing down generational wealth, usually in the form of businesses or home ownership.
I believe many social welfare programs make it difficult to escape poverty at best, and encourage destructive behaviors that are conducive to poverty at worst.
One way government assistance makes it difficult to escape poverty, at least here in Illinois, is that if you're in college, you are required to work at least 20hrs/week to qualify for food stamps (I'm not against that). However, if you're not in school, you can be unemployed (even if you're an able bodied adult) and still qualify for food stamps. I see this as an incentive to not only be jobless, but also not even be in school (that would better your job prospects).
Another way I noticed is that there seems to be "tiers". This makes upward mobility extremely difficult. I'll give an anecdotal example, I remember when we were getting food stamp benefits, I had gotten a raise that I reported. It was only a $0.50 raise, which translated to only about an additional $50-$60 a month however, my benefits were cut by about $180. I spoke with a few friends and family about this, and many have told me that they refused promotions and pay raises because their experiences were similar. I also know too many people who will flat out refuse full time jobs, or reduce their hours on purpose to stay within the lower income tier and qualify for assistance. This clearly promotes not working full time (a behavior that will help reduce poverty).
Another controversial form is more in tackling the big 3 is that many welfare programs indirectly penalize those who are married by reducing benefits. A "trick" I've seen many people around me is to not get married (though still co-habitation or being with) with their partner. This way, they can claim that they don't know the father or where he is, and they can only report 1 income in the household and even avoid putting the father through child support. (I hate to throw undocumented immigrants under the bus, but it's even easier for them because there's no way to track them down, since they're undocumented). I know many couples who wanted to get married, but refuse to do so for fear of losing benefits.
And then there's the notorious Section 8. I hate Section 8. It also encourages dependency. Section 8 is a program that is based on a sliding scale and covers part of your rent. For obvious reasons, it fosters dependency not only on the government, but also on landlords. It prevents people from owning homes, something necessary to pass generational wealth.
But not only has it failed because of it encourages dependency, it also fails because it also exacerbates poverty. The way it's implemented in many places, they calculate rent by fair market rent. However, there is a cut off point and many times, the affordable apartments tend to be in poor neighborhoods. It was intended to move poor people out of the ghetto, but because low income area homeowners recruit Section 8 recipients, and higher income area owners refuse to rent to Section 8 recipients (because their income isn't high enough - hence why they need government assistance), it is failing and keeping many poor people in communities with concentrated poverty.
If you made it this far, congrats. I'll be doing a part 2 to further discuss why I think communities of color are so poor. And also why upward mobility is difficult.