Shifting the Poverty Narrative from People to Places; Jim King Weighs In

appalachia, Narrative | January 2, 2024

Shifting the poverty narrative from people to places; Jim King weighs in

“Most things we see have been shaped by history in ways we don’t immediately understand,” says H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan’s Ford School.

A December 2023 article in the University of Michigan’s publication State & Hill highlights Shaefer’s latest book, The Injustice of Place, and includes comments from Fahe’s CEO Jim King.

Shaefer and his co-authors developed an Index of Deep Disadvantage to identify what communities face the most significant challenges. It turns out they are rural. The researchers immersed themselves in studying several disadvantaged rural communities in Appalachia, the southern Texas border, and the Cotton Belt.

The authors find that historic exploitation, corruption, and discrimination have all contributed to persistent poverty in these regions.

Fahe’s CEO Jim King agrees that “the challenges we face are structural, generational, and not just isolated or individual issues, but very much place-based.”

Fahe first invited Shaefer to provide a keynote speech at our 2019 annual membership meeting. At that meeting Shaefer shared insights from his prior book $2.00 a Day which underscored the importance of a living wage. That issue still resonates deeply in Appalachia. More recently Fahe invited Shaefer to address our annual meeting in October of 2023.

“The valuable insights from The Injustice of Place and the Index of Deep Disadvantage are powerful indicators of what’s been missing and wrong,” King said. “By naming what is not right, we can shift to working together with the people we serve, as well as join forces with other regions suffering from the same distress, to get the resources we need to overcome these obstacles and create lasting change.” 

Fahe has been increasingly active at raising our voice on issues of poverty at the national level through Partners for Rural Transformation to get the resources we need and drive the outcomes we want to see in our region.

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