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Race and poverty are strongly linked in America—this is overwhelmingly true for Fresno County

  • A person of color is 2-3 times as likely to be in poverty than a white person in Fresno County. For children, the gap is even wider. Nearly a third of the children are in poverty for every race group except white. Almost half of all Black children in Fresno Country are in poverty.
  • People of color are overrepresented in the poorest and most disadvantaged neighborhoods. In addition, a neighborhood largely made up of people of color is more likely to be poor than a predominantly white neighborhood.
  • There are persistent disparities between people of color and white Americans in almost every quality of life measure—the most basic being income, education, and health. The correlation between race and well-being in America remains powerful.

Racial inequity is systemic

  • Let’s look at our society as a complex system of organizations, institutions, individuals, processes, and policies. Then, we can see how many factors interact to create and perpetuate poverty for people of color.
  • Housing, education, and health care are just a few examples of how advantages and disadvantages are often distributed along racial lines.

Structural racism perpetuates poverty in Fresno.

Poverty in Fresno is reinforced and sustained through structural racism. Structural racism refers to a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms perpetuate racial group inequity.

  • The Urban Institute’s 2018 research on economic mobility in California’s largest cities revealed that Fresno ranks 59th out of 59 for economic and racial disparity.
  • Brookings Institute affirmed this by finding that Fresno is included in 84 out of 100 metro areas.

A structural view of racism enables us to see the connections between seemingly independent opportunity structures.

Opportunity structures include:

  • High-performing schools.
  • Affordable housing.
  • Sustainable employment.
  • Safety from crime.
  • Environmentally safe neighborhoods.
  • Home equity and wealth.
  • Access to affordable health care.

Together, these structures form a system — a “web of opportunity”— and a person’s location within this web significantly influences that individual’s chances of escaping poverty.

Relationships between opportunity structures are “cumulative causation” or “cumulative disadvantage.”

Cumulative causation is the result of historical racist policies: redlining, criminal justice, economic exclusion—even anti-poverty policies.
Cumulative disadvantages result from structural racism in education, health, the built environment, and economy.

  • Living in a highly segregated and isolated neighborhood is associated with poor-performing schools.
  • Poor performing schools are associated with high drop-out rates.
  • High dropout rates are associated with low-paying jobs.
  • Low-paying jobs are associated with living in high poverty concentrated neighborhoods.


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