The readings for this week addressed the relationship between ghettos and housing and socioeconomic opportunities. W.E.B. Du Bois wrote his piece examining the Seventh Ward ghetto in Philadelphia in the last year of the 1800s. This area of Philadelphia was a black ghetto with deteriorating housing and little opportunity for advancement up the socioeconomic ladder. Most African-American men and women living in the Seventh Ward at the time were servants or laborers. Du Bois stated that the reason for the difficulties that ghetto dwellers experienced was the racial discrimination directed at them. Being black in a white man’s world made it nearly impossible to obtain a skilled job, not to mention finding and successfully keeping less desirable jobs. Racial discrimination kept these Philadelphian African-Americans in low paying jobs and essentially trapped them in the ghettos.

William Julius Wilson took a surprisingly different approach to his writing on ghettos. His piece was written almost one hundred years after W.E.B. Du Bois wrote “The Negro Problems of Philadelphia” with a different approach and new problems. Wilson studied the ghettos of Chicago and found that as time went on the conditions in the ghettos were actually worsening rather than improving. Unlike Du Bois’ time period, drugs and the violence that accompanies it were becoming increasingly troublesome. Strangely enough, the population inside of individual ghettos was decreasing but the number of ghetto neighborhoods was increasing. Such low density but large surface area coverage created difficulties in maintaining tight security in these neighborhoods and in using the community to reduce crime as well as family issues. What Wilson discovered was that the decrease in racial discrimination along with its continued legacy was aiding the redistribution of the black population into better neighborhoods with more to offer. However, as the more educated and better-off families left, the concentration of the poor became greater. These low-density communities did not offer much support and unfortunately drug use grew as an issue. According to Wilson, the central issue causing the deterioration of ghettos was unemployment. During the 1990s when this piece was written a shocking number of adults living in the Chicago ghettos did not hold jobs. Thus the vicious cycle of the poor trapped inside of lifeless ghettos continues, unless the issue of joblessness is addressed.

Michael Porter’s piece, “The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City”, in some ways addresses the joblessness problem raised by William Julius Wilson. Porter believes that it is time for a new strategy to bring life and energy to the ghettos. He argues that the government and businesses need to focus on an approach using economic incentives to generate wealth in those areas, instead of the traditional social approach that gives away economic care packages to individuals without any long-term effects. Porter believes that the trick is to lure in outside businesses into the inner city areas with the advantages that it has to offer, such as convenient location and human resources. If companies are meticulous in their research they can make the decision whether or not they will benefit from starting/moving their business to the inner city. With assistance from the government and community-based organizations, these imported companies can thrive and bring much needed economic boosts to the areas in which they set up shop.