One of the strongest tenets of the blue-collar, working-class ideology is the American Dream: the belief that, if you work hard enough you can build yourself a better life. However, when we look at the conditions of poverty that are plaguing Dallas, Texas, it certainly appears that this dream is failing many of the city’s citizens.
Of those who are poverty-stricken and living in the city, nearly 31,000 are people who are working full-time, year-round jobs just to barely keep on their feet, let alone have any hope of getting ahead. This problem is one that largely lacks any simple solution; a number of factors drive the intense poverty felt throughout the city.
Being a metropolitan area, there are jobs available in Dallas for workers. However, with the expanse of the city and most people not owning a car, affording transportation to even get to your job in the first place can be a huge expense in itself. People in Dallas are spending more of their paychecks on transportation than people in Chicago, Seattle, and even expensive San Francisco.
Housing is getting pricier as well; the cost of housing and median monthly rent have been on the rise with the number of affordable houses in the city dropping. This pushes the lower income families out of the housing near the city and subsequently away from the jobs that they can reach easily without costing a fortune in transportation.
And finally, those who have jobs with opportunities for growth rarely see those doors open for them due to the language barrier that exists in Dallas. More than two-thirds of the city’s population are estimated to have Spanish as their primary language, and by it’s been predicted that, by 2030, one-third of its residents will not be literate in English to any degree. This poses a huge barrier for those looking for career advancements and opportunities to get ahead.
A second major driving factor of poverty — and Dallas is no exception — is the fact that, when there is a discussion about poverty, the focus falls more on the working poor than on those in poverty who don’t work. This largely comes from a misinformed belief that the people who aren’t working are unemployed by choice out of laziness, but more often than not, this isn’t the case.
You see, many of those unemployed and living in poverty are unable to get jobs because they are ex-convicts. We aren’t talking about hard-core murders or violent criminals at large here, either; many of these people have criminal records because they were caught right out of high school for selling drugs which sent them to prison. Their resulting criminal records are now keeping them from ever landing real jobs. Another misconception is that convicts are able to take vocational training throughout their sentences and easily find employment on the outside. However, although vocational training is certainly available, the job opportunities just aren’t.
The American Dream is dead for those living in poverty in Dallas because the belief in hard work equaling comfort and stability in life just simply doesn’t exist for these people. They are at a disadvantage in a system that is now actively working against their pursuit of a good life, and the only way we can start to work on these issues is to address them and acknowledge them.