What Drives (and Improves) Poverty and Income Inequality in a Community?  

Income inequality and poverty-stricken households significantly influence the demise of a local community. And a low-income community driven by under-educated individuals actually perpetuates this fiscal depression. For example, a primary reason that the U.S. economy is growing but the traditional "all boats will rise" prosperity phenomena has not happened is a direct result of the millions of people outside the economic mainstream who lack the skills and opportunity to exploit this middle-skills gap moment. Regrettably, the consequences of poverty are impeding community growth, from poor health and hunger to lost productivity and steep economic deficits.

A cluster of factors shape the lives of young people suffering in poverty, including toxic living conditions, homelessness, violence, abuse, neglect, and illness. The distance between young people and education deepens as individuals continue to be encumbered by these pernicious barriers without any available solutions to better their lives.

Combating poverty with initiatives to lower high school dropout rates is also an essential ingredient, according to John Bridgeland in his article, "Fight Poverty: Lower High School Dropout Rates." Without high school completion, young people experience higher unemployment rates and rates of receiving public assistance, going to prison, divorcing, and becoming single parents-all catalysts for a life and community plagued by poverty. Poverty is cyclical, yet academic options specifically designed to meet the unique needs of these low-income individuals can break the treacherous cycle.

For example, in Bridgeland's co-authored report, "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts," nearly one-third of interviewed students said that they left high school to make money at a job and support their families. Family demands, along with lacking support, resources and options, inflate the number of dropouts who are more likely to work at low-income jobs and stay in an impoverished way of life.

Dropout prevention and high school completion programs designed to meet the specific needs and challenges of the non-traditional student (such as blended learning models) can help raise high school graduation rates and make both secondary education and career opportunities more viable.

Read Part 1: A Case for Action and Where to Start

Read Part 2: What Drives (and Improves) Economic and Productivity Growth in a Community