Updated: Feb 17
This blog post is an academic assignment completed by Rachel White about
microeconomics and inequality in the United States.
Desperation Born by Inequality in Atlanta
An article by Chidi (2022) tells the story of Twon, a kid that was trying to sell water on a road in Atlanta who got shot over $20 cash. The tragedy of this boy is a symbol for how, “America doesn’t respect beggars, but we say we respect the hustle. Stay in school. Don’t do drugs. Follow the law. Show initiative. Take smart risks” (Chidi, 2022, para. 4). We tell those born into low socioeconomic status to do these things and they will be rewarded. They can “rise above”, even when others may start out with more advantages than them. The point of this article is to draw attention to broken systems, with a spotlight on Atlanta, the city I just moved to last July, and a street within it called Northside Drive. It is about eight minutes from my new house—but it is actually a world away, with impoverished on every street corner, asking for a smile and a dollar. “Even before the pandemic, Atlanta’s inequality was beginning to look like—and feel like—late 18th century Revolutionary France” (Chidi, 2022, para. 55).
Microeconomics is About More than Money
Verwimp et al. (2019) defines violent conflict as a breakdown of social contracts within a system that results in an update to the official social norm. Such changes imply overarching violence in the way of group action (Verwimp, 2019). Economics is about so much more than just money. Personal finances play a massive role in a person’s perception of success, as well as their perceived happiness (Mateer & Coppock, 2021, p. 5). One of the myths that Verwimp et al. debunk in their 2019 article is the concept that, “Conflict is a problem of poverty and the poor” (para. 10). Often it is the wealthy that have the most to lose in conflict, not those with nothing. However, it is also wealthy who have the strongest ability to protect their loved ones and assets from that conflict. There is insignificant proof that being poor is what leads to violence, but rather it is weak institutions that are the culprit (Verwimp et al., 2019).
Personal Viewpoints on Violence and Microeconomics
Many people have the incorrect view that impoverished individuals in the United States (U.S.) can simply “rise above” their circumstances if they only had the will power. It is important to note that the human experience is far too complex for such a blanket statement, as there are many factors that contribute to a person’s ability to find success, both financially and interpersonally. Variables that can keep individuals from gaining personal wealth may sometimes include: (a) mental health factors and lack of access to mental healthcare; (b) family responsibilities like caring for children as a single parent, or caring for ill loved ones; (c) chronic personal physiological health issues and lack of access to healthcare; (d) poor local job opportunities and lack of finances to relocate or purchase a working car; (e) loss of personal wealth through divorce; and (f) minimum wage’s inability to keep up with U.S. dollar inflation. Working full time on minimum wage does not meet the financial needs of most individuals in most U.S. regions, whether they have dependents or not (Livingston, 2022). There are so many variables that create the circumstances that impoverished people end up in, and the main culprit is a weak system (Verwimp et al., 2019). Individuals that are born into poverty often experience institutions like the U.S. foster care network or public-school systems in low-income neighborhoods, and then they repeat the same instances of poverty that the generations before them experienced.
Just as microeconomics is individualistic, so then is showing others compassion. There are many people that go without some of the most basic necessities, and it is up to those born with privilege to not just help individuals that are stuck in the broken United States system, but to fix the system itself.
Chidi, G. (2022, January 21). The source of violent crime in Atlanta isn’t mysterious: It’s
desperation born by inequality. Atlanta Magazine. https://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-
Mateer, D. & Coppock, L. (2021). Principles of Microeconomics: COVID-19 Update (3rd ed.).
W.W. Norton & Company.
Livingston, A.(2022, January 10). Living on minimum wage – Is it possible in 2022? Money
Verwimp, P., Justino, P., & Bruck, T. (2019). The microeconomics of violent conflict. Journal of
Development Economics, 141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2018.0.005