In this the 50th year since President Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress declared a national domestic war to address the massive crisis of poverty in the United States, it seems a fitting time to take a “completely fresh look” at the multiplicity of factors underlying this devastating and extremely-complex problem. Based on a combination of unique historical and community-cultural characteristics and the very poor poverty-related outcomes described in this paper, the City of Omaha [Nebraska] provides a case study to better understand the roots and nature of poverty.
Based largely on Patrick McNamara’s invaluable, but since neglected, 2007 comparative case study of Omaha’s community culture,1 this paper shows that certain components of and patterns within it, have been identified that are clearly tied to some of the worst urban-minority poverty and related socio-economic problems in the United States. These preliminary findings are especially ironic, as Omaha as an entity and a great many of its citizens, see and tout themselves and their home-place as a virtually-utopian representation of “the good life” and among the absolutely best places to live, raise families and conduct business anywhere in the country and the entire world.
Our examination and analyses of McNamara’s primarily qualitative, theory-building study, along with additional research findings, form the foundation for this paper, which we hope will be a “bridge” to the future development of a more-quantitative, applied research and poverty-policy development agenda. By focusing on the identified components of Omaha’s community culture which are linked to poverty and other local problems, this new information should be of enormous benefit to individuals and institutions that are addressing the many concrete issues and ongoing, poverty-related crises in Omaha and Nebraska.
Piper, R. K. and Barron-McKeagney, Theresa, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Omaha’s 160-Year Assault on the Urban Poor, Minorities and the Disadvantaged: A Critical Dialogue Paper" (2014). Publications since 2000. 402.