December 3, 2008

As need rises, services for poor may fall

Economic downturns are apt to tread hard on services for the poor just when demand for services is rising, University of Chicago research found.

Contrary to popular assumptions, most of the funding for the poor is not doled out as cash assistance, said lead researcher, Scott Allard, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration.

For every dollar in cash assistance given out, $15 is spend on support services, Allard said in a University of Chicago news report.

During hard times, however, philanthropy declines and tax revenues decrease, both factors putting the budgets of non-profit agencies at risk.

Location of services also puts the country's poorest citizens at risk, the study found.

About 70 percent of the high-poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles offer only low levels of social services, the study found.

In Chicago, almost 80 percent of the high and extremely high poverty neighborhoods are in areas with low levels of service accessibility, Allard said.

That means that in a poor neighborhood there may be five or six people in line for every client slot, while in a better off neighborhood there only may be one or two people per slot, Allard said.