ALABAMA HAS THE WORST POVERTY IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD, U.N. OFFICIAL SAYS The U.N. investigation aims to study the effects of systemic poverty in a prosperous nation like the United States.
A United Nations official investigating poverty in the United States was shocked at the level of environmental degradation in some areas of rural Alabama, saying he had never seen anything like it in the developed world.
“I think it’s very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this,” Philip Alston, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, told Connor Sheets of AL.comearlier this week as they toured a community in Butler County where “raw sewage flows from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits.” The tour through Alabama’s rural communities is part of a two-week investigation by the U.N. on poverty and human rights abuses in the United States. So far, U.N. investigators have visited cities and towns in California and Alabama, and will soon travel to Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.
According to the Census Bureau, nearly 41 million people in the U.S. live in poverty. That’s second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries, as measured by the percentage of people earning less than half the national median income, according to Quartz. These income and wealth disparities affect minorities the most. Black, Hispanic, and Native American children, for example, are two to three times more likely to live in poverty than white kids, according to a study using Census data by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Minorities in the United States have also historically had higher rates of unemployment, worked longer hours, and gotten paid less than their white counterparts on average, as reported in a 2013 article in The Atlantic that analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stretching back to 1975.
Economic inequality and racial discrimination have also been linked with civil rights abuses, particularly in Alabama and other states across the South. Police shootings of unarmed black men and women are also of deep concern to the U.N. Alston, who’s also a law professor at New York University, said in a statement announcing the start of the U.N. investigation that poverty in the U.S. has been overlooked for too long. “Some might ask why a U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States,” Alston said. “But despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality.” Alston also pointed out that the U.S. “has been very keen” on other countries being investigated by the U.N. for civil and human rights issues. “Now, it’s the turn to look at what’s going on in the U.S.,” Alston said. “There are pretty extreme levels of poverty in the United States given the wealth of the country. And that does have significant human rights implications.”