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EDITORIAL: Indy must tackle growing gap between haves and have-nots

May 18, 2018

One in five Indianapolis residents lives in poverty—a number that has jumped 75 percent since 2000. It’s shocking and it’s unacceptable, and yet, somehow, too many of us have managed to ignore it or simply grown to accept it.

Maybe we’ve been fooled by the city’s low unemployment rate: just 3.3 percent in February, the last month for which local numbers are available.

Maybe it’s the growing enthusiasm about Indy’s tech sector, which has gained national attention as Salesforce has expanded here, India-based Infosys has announced it will locate 3,000 jobs here, and Amazon has the city on its HQ2 short list.

one-city-worlds-apartPerhaps it’s the development downtown that has brought thousands of apartments and condos into the city’s core—plus amenities like Whole Foods and the bustling Mass Ave retail district.

But behind the shiny new buildings and glowing outside reviews lies a more complex economy, one in which higher-income residents are getting wealthier while lower-income families are getting poorer.

It’s time to pay attention.

IBJ is aiming to do its part by assigning a reporter, Hayleigh Colombo, to get to the root of poverty in Indianapolis, to find its causes and look for solutions. Her occasional series—called One City, Worlds Apart—started with a story last week that compared the fortunes of people in two ZIP codes that sit just a few miles from each other but are heading down opposite paths.

But we know the problems aren’t in just a few neighborhoods. In fact, census data shows that 35 of the 36 ZIP codes in Indianapolis had higher poverty rates in 2016 than they did 16 years earlier.

“The most left-leaning do-gooder and the most right-leaning capitalist both can see a reason to address income inequality and reduce opportunity disparity,” Drew Klacik, a senior policy analyst at the Indiana University Public Policy Center, told IBJ. “If you don’t have enough thriving people, it’s hard to have a thriving company and thriving economy.”

In the coming weeks and months, Colombo will tackle the city’s problems both at the ground level and from a wider angle. She’ll tell the stories of people and neighborhoods—and the programs trying to help them. She’ll search for solutions that offer hope through the practical help people need to improve their lives.

And we’ll be reporting on the work of the Indy Chamber and other organizations that have determined poverty and the growing disparity among the city’s residents is something everyone who wants to build a thriving city must be concerned about.

We want to know what you think, too. Go to www.ibj.com/worlds-apart-contact to tell us your concerns about the city, your ideas for fighting poverty, and the programs you believe are making a difference in the lives of people.

Write a letter to the editor. Comment on our stories. Introduce us to someone who has an innovative approach to fighting poverty.

We look forward to your thoughts and to making coverage about poverty a priority at IBJ.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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