Economic Policy


Tackling Poverty through Promise Zones Initiatives

The Center for American Progress released a new report discussing promise zones and their effects on poor communities.  Under the Obama administration, the Promise Zones Initiative has taken shape.  The purpose of this initiative is to strategically revitalize high-poverty communities, many of which are comprised of minorities particularly in urban areas.  Also, local leaders of the areas to be revitalized receive help in managing additional federal funding that they receive through the initiative.  These extra resources are to improve struggling communities by:

  • encouraging job creation,
  • increasing economic security,
  • expanding educational opportunities, and
  • increasing access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety.

A long history of policies designed to isolate the poor have heavily impacted communities of color. For example, beginning in the 1930’s redlining practices excluded African-Americans from certain communities as banks were allowed to deny African-Americans for home loans.  Also, post-World War II, highways were built through many low-income communities that were also largely African-American.  Disruptions in these communities resulted because many residents were displaced and many businesses were driven out to make room for the highways.

Concentrated poverty areas remain today and their long-term negative results persist. Some of the disparities within these communities include inferior housing, poor health outcomes, failing schools, substandard public infrastructure, and limited opportunities for employment.  Further, the effects of poverty-stricken communities have deep impacting negative effects for children including genetic aging and impaired cognitive ability.  Subsequent future effects include poor health, low educational outcomes, and limited employment opportunities. Further, more stressors are tied to increased crime and decreased air quality.

Key suggestions for improving the Promise Zone Initiatives are as follows:

  • Initiative goals should be driven by social mobility research
  • Congress-supported tax incentives should be in place for Promise Zone efforts
  • Planning grants should be awarded
  • Connections to regional opportunities should be emphasized more


Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School