Intelligent Discontent

A Few Miles May Mean Decades of Life


Everyone in American (outside of the Fox News bubble) knows that being born in certain demographic and geographic conditions can either be an enormous advantage or disadvantage in life, but the statistic and reason often obscure understanding, but I don’t believe people truly understand just how much where we’re born matters.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a series of maps illustrating how the neighborhoods we’re born in impact our life expectancy. One map, showing the city of New Orleans, shows that a few miles can mean the difference of 25 years in life expectancy:


Another fascinating look at this subject used subway stops to illustrate the same argument about income.

Too often when we think of poverty in this country, we think of it as an abstraction or even as nothing more than an inconvenience for those living in poverty. In his book Poverty and Power: The Problem of Structural Inequality, Edward Royce writes:

Not only have we failed to eradicate poverty, but the very idea of such an undertaking is barely contemplated in the mainstream public discourse. At best, poverty is considered a low-priority issue. The poor in the United States, so it is imagined, do not really have it so bad and their poverty, in any case, is due primarily to their own self-destructive behaviors.

A map like this helps convey the truth that poverty, especially as the gap between the rich and poor in this country grows, is not just something that decreases health and educational opportunity at every turn.

It is a matter of life and death.

I know it’s fashionable to condemn Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty these days, but we were once a nation committed to a perhaps idealistic struggle against the scourge of poverty, not one racing to make a buck while we alternate between condemning and ignoring those who’ve been left behind.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a sixteen year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate. In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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