Sample Research Paper on Cyclic Problems Associated with Ghetto Life

Cyclic Problems Associated with Ghetto Life


It is of common understanding that ghetto life is characterized by endless, mostly cyclic problems that shape those who dwell in the ghettos. As Clarke opines, the problems of ghetto life are pathological and cyclic in nature such that one leads to another. These characteristic problems can therefore be said to be both interconnected and of degrading natures. In this way, the problems are self-sustaining; hence, most people who live in the ghettos are most likely to remain that way for generations. From the 60s, there has been limited change in the conditions of life in the US ghettos, with ghetto dwellers still receiving the kind of treatment they have been receiving since the inception of the ghettos. For instance, they are still looked down upon as being poor, lacking in education, based on dysfunctional families and dependent on state welfare.

In the light of these characteristics, the connectedness that avails itself makes it difficult to surpass the constraints of ghetto life except through an external influencing factor. The major problems associated with ghetto life include prevalence of crime, poverty, and racial stratification. The aspect of racial stratification comes about due to the preference of ghetto dwellers to dwell among people of similar races, who turn out to be mainly people of minority groups.

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the problems associated with ghetto life, to identify how these problems are connected, and to explain how these problems make it difficult for ghetto dwellers to free themselves from these problems.

Problems of Ghetto life


One of the greatest problems associated with ghetto life is poverty. Most people living in the ghettos do so below the poverty line both in the past and in the present. The issues that give rise to the unending poverty in the ghetto include low educational levels, lack of basic amenities, poor housing and dependence on state welfare. In the past, racial segregation resulted in the denial of some basic rights to the members of minority groups. The members of minority groups living in the ghettos could not enjoy the right to quality education.

The minority groups are also more likely to be hired in low paying jobs that could not enable them to cater for all their daily needs. Due to lack of gainful employment, parents are unable to provide for their families. Employment has the role of creating a future for children as well as their parents besides offering present support. A lack of employment therefore results in both present and future need. Persistent unemployment results in persistent need for welfare support.

Under employment and unemployment coupled with arrival of new unemployed minority immigrants results in persistent poverty in the ghetto. In their need, the dwellers of the ghetto sometimes depend on creditors for their livelihood, a fete that proves ill advised at certain time. This is because in the event that one is unable to pay, garnishment practices allow the creditors to withhold the debtors’ wages without hearing (Kerner, n.d, p. 15). When their wages are withheld, the debtors are forced to seek new avenues for providing for their families, hence they remain constantly in debt, a factor that results in being enslaved to poverty since one is always working to cover debts.

Apart from this, the people’s poverty prevents them from getting high quality information regarding both lending facilities and other institutions that can help in gaining higher income. This gives leeway for exploitative intermediaries whose role is to broker between the manufacturers of goods and the consumers in the ghettos. Instead of providing goods and services more cheaply compared to other areas, these brokers sell them at even higher prices. The impact of this is that the poor ghetto dwellers spend relatively more on goods and services than those who live in other parts of the cities. The high expenditures also lead to more deprivation with regards to goods and services. In addition, it also aids in perpetuating the poverty in the ghetto since less is left behind for saving.

Due to the poverty levels in the ghetto, it is frequent to find that children are not offered quality education. They depend on the public school education systems, which sometimes prove ineffective in monitoring individual child behavior. The result of this is the high probability of engagement in unethical behavior amongst the children. The schooling system in the ghetto is characterized by don’t care attitudes whereby the teachers are driven by a need for salary while the children only stay in schools as long as their parents can keep them there. The lack of quality education results in increased poverty levels founded on lack of information and lack of qualification for good jobs (Kerner, n.d, p. 25). It is therefore easy for the ghetto youths to be engaged in employment prior to completing their studies and to be taken as a source of cheap labor. Their children are therefore more likely to undergo the same cycle of non-education and underemployment resulting in abject poverty.

In the ghetto, the poverty levels result in various aspects that act as signs of poverty and help in perpetuating the poverty levels. First, low-income households as has already been cited earlier characterize ghetto life. Due to these low-income levels, most of the households cannot afford either social security or health insurance. This results in poor health and hygiene due to the present sanitation problems amongst other social issues. Ghetto life is characterized by low life expectancy and high mortality rates due to lack of effective medical care.

Due to the low-income levels, most families in the ghetto are dysfunctional. As Tillmon (1972, para. 9) explains, the only way to ensure that one gets state welfare assistance is to let the man in the family go if he is not earning enough. Families therefore strive towards achieving higher pay for the man or gaining state welfare by separating from the man. Single mothers who may not be effective disciplinarians in the face of adolescent rebellion mostly bring up children. They are therefore more likely to engage in behaviors that defy societal norms.

The dependence on welfare by the ghetto dwellers is one of the main causes of contempt between the whites and the minority groups that dwell in the ghettos. This menace arises due to the poverty levels in the ghetto. Although the state welfare system provides albeit a means of living, it is based on policies that result in the exclusion of some very needy people from the welfare program (Kerner, n.d, p. 26). For instance, the availability of an able-bodied man is considered undesirable for welfare funding. This makes it difficult for the ghetto people who are not able to find decent jobs to take care of their families as they are forced to separate from their families so that the wives can be assisted by the state welfare.

Moreover, the welfare system provides assistance that is below the minimum requirements hence even those who depend on state welfare still live below the poverty line. This helps in the sustenance of the poverty in the ghettos since the people use what they earn without saving or even investing. As the years go by, the numbers of state welfare dependants increases since those who initially depend on the welfare do not get off it but those without a source of livelihood increase. Besides this, those on welfare do not intend to get off it. It is thus understandable why their children and grandchildren are also likely to be supported by welfare.

Moreover, the state welfare system places constraints on the recipients of aid that force them to live within specific standards. For instance, when dwelling on welfare, the poor are supposed to take care of their children in ways approved by the state (Tillmon, 1972, para. 10). Any corrective measures deemed unacceptable, or engaging in any form of labor that the state considers detrimental to child health results in child custody by the state.

This prevents the welfare dependants from engaging in extra activities and thus their income is limited to the state welfare. This is because due to being academically constrained, they are less likely to find jobs that place their children in respectable care hence any care they may be able to afford is likely to be disapproved by the state. In addition, such jobs give limited wages, which cannot pay for their upkeep without state welfare funding.

The adverse poverty has made the ghettos to be viewed as foundations of crime and sexual immorality since girls have to fend for their needs as well as for their families. Girls engage in prostitution while boys find themselves cornered by drug use as well as drug peddling. Because of this, crime is rife in the ghetto, leading to the branding of the ghettos as dangerous neighborhoods. Children from the ghetto who find themselves in good schools are ridiculed and even shunned. The presumption of criminal activity potential by law enforcement authorities further aggravates the matter with retaliatory action originating from the youths and criminals themselves. The punitive nature of law enforcement authorities coupled with actions without premeditation of their consequences often results in undesired outcomes.


The self-sustaining nature of ghetto poverty that results from broken families and unemployment leads to a system characterized by manipulative and callous relations in the ghetto. Prostitution, criminal activity and drug addiction are the norm, with children who grow up under this condition likely to engage in civil misdemeanor. Personal insecurity is heightened and tension surrounds the ghetto environment (Kerner, n.d, p. 14).

The law enforcement authorities have from time to time considered the ghetto as the den of criminal activity. However, even though those who live in other neighborhoods also engage in crime, those from the ghetto often face more severe punishments in the event of criminal activity. Minors from the ghettos are sometimes subjected to adult law leading to harsher convictions. In addition, those who engage in criminal activity are also given more severe punishments. For instance, crimes that would normally deserve a jail term are punished by being awarded a prison term due to the skewed justice system with regards to ghetto dwellers.

The result of incarceration whether justly or unjustly is that it takes away able bodied individuals who would have taken care of their families (Thompson, 2010, p. 713). Consequently, even though the law enforcement authorities may celebrate their victory in achieving incarceration for a criminal, it brings about a deficit in the national treasury in the long term since families left behind have to be supported by state welfare. In addition to this, some of the law enforcement agencies act on impulse with respect to criminal activity in the ghettos. The results of their actions often include riots and claims of racial discrimination since most of the arresting officers are often white.

Moreover, the role of crime in perpetuating poverty in the ghetto is undeniable. For the criminals, when punished through imprisonment, the abilities they could have used to cater for their families as well as to save for future posterity are taken to waste. In this way, their families never get out of the cycle of poverty. At the same time, crime is costly to perpetrators as well as the victims. For instance, a youth engaged in drug abuse may end up committing assault, petty theft or any other felony that may sustain his/ her negative behavior. Consequently, both the drug peddler and the youth risk facing a jail term. For crimes such as burglary, the victim also faces a loss that is in most cases recoverable, contributing to the sustenance of the state of poverty.

Besides the serious crimes considered by the state, other crimes that characterize ghetto life include street fights due to inequitable distribution of limited resources, retaliatory wars, political insurgences and family feuds. It is more common to find family feuds turning tragic in the ghetto than elsewhere. These types of assaulting crimes are founded on the need to survive which is a common feature of ghetto life. It is defined by the adage; ‘survival for the fittest’ a feat that sometimes requires the employment of undue force to surpass.

Another role of crime in maintaining the problems associated with ghetto life lies in its preposterous ability to cause a negative identity. For instance, due to the fact that ghetto life is characterized by high levels of criminal activity, it is common to find the stereotypical belief among law enforcement agencies that any person who dwells in the ghetto is a criminal. Besides this, since the ghettos are mainly home to minority groups, the stereotype is often extended to the entire group. For instance, it is believed by the whites that African Americans are criminals. This explains some of the latest random shootings when the police asserted that they felt the victims were security threats. The law does not give provisions for challenging the actions of law enforcement agencies in light of purported crime or intent to commit criminal activity (Kerner, n.d, p. 17).

At the same time, being in the ghetto and possessing particular ethnic backgrounds easily pitches an individual against the accusation of being a criminal (Tillmon, 1972, para. 1). In other words, the aspects of minority racial group, life in the ghetto, poverty and crime go hand in hand. Those who dwell in other higher income places also consider those in the ghettos to be lazy and criminal minded due to their dependence on state welfare.

Racial Discrimination

One key feature of ghetto life is that most residents of the inner cities belong to minority racial groups. These groups are mainly immigrants from other places who come without stable employment with the aim of seeking a source of income (Zukin, 1995, p. 145). However, lacking the necessary skills, the types of employment they get do not favor their residence in other areas. Consequently, they dwell where their means allow. It is therefore understandable to find majority of dwellers of a particular ghetto belonging to a specific minority group. For instance, a ghetto may comprise of a predominantly black American population while another may be predominantly Hispanic.

In addition to this, the historic racial discrimination predefined residential areas for people of particular races (Zukin, 1995, p. 145). This has led to the persistence of these racial blocks particularly in the low-income residential areas. For the individuals with higher income, options that are more residential are continually being availed even in white areas. However, it is difficult to integrate into new neighborhoods due to observed racial injustices. For instance, following the attacks on new black neighbors in a white residential area, no blacks would desire to purchase homes in the area (Massey & Denton, n.d, p. 91). Consequently, even blacks of substantially higher incomes prefer to remain in the ghettos where they dwell among their fellow black individuals.

The problem of racial discrimination in ghettos also results in the perpetuation of poverty. People of minority races are more likely to be employed in low wage jobs requiring unskilled labor than the white people (Massey & Denton, n.d, p. 85). This simply translates into lower income and lower living standards for those of minority groups. They are also at a higher risk of lacking employment hence the cycle of poverty persists in their circles.

With regards to crime, people of minority groups are exposed to more stringent law enforcement procedures that render them incapacitated in catering for their families’ needs. For instance, a crime that would have been punished by a jail term if committed by a white would be punished by subjecting the defendant to a prison sentence. The defendant is thus limited in his capacity to fend for the family and the family remains poor. This is a cyclic problem involving crime, poverty     and racial discrimination.


Ideally, the problems associated with the ghetto are indeed pathogenic with limited chance of being overcome except through external measures. Racial discrimination plays an important role in sustaining poverty through denial of good employment opportunities. At the same time, it contributes to crime through retaliation to discriminatory measures. For instance, during demonstrations against extrajudicial killings of individuals belonging to minority races, occurrences such as vandalism and arson may be witnessed.

On the other hand, poverty leads to crime due to lack of sustainable employments, which leads to idleness, and lack. Other crimes such as prostitution are also committed as a direct result of poverty. In addition to this, poverty also contributes to enhanced racial segregation, as people prefer to live amongst those of like-mindedness. Crime also perpetuates poverty due to the lack of productivity when the perpetrators are incarcerated. It further enhances negative publicity whereby stereotypes are created identifying certain minority groups with crime. This amounts to racial prejudice.

It is therefore imperative to note that these major problems associated with ghetto life are cyclic as well as connected and self-perpetuating. There can be no ghetto life without poverty and once there is poverty, the other problems simply fall in line. It is the responsibility of governments to cater for the needs of its citizens without subjecting them to any form of discrimination, as this is the requirement of the law.


Kerner Commission. (n.d). Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Bantam Books

Massey, D. & Denton, N. (n.d). American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. London: Harvard University Press.

Tillmon, J. (1972, February 26). “Welfare is a Women’s Issue,” Liberation New Service, 415.

Thompson, H.A. (2010).Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline, and

Transformation in Postwar American History. The Journal of American History, 97(3), 703-734.

Zukin, S. (1995). Whose Culture, Whose City? In LeGates, R. & Stout, F. (Eds.) The Cultures of Cities. Routledge.