Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Cameron Shelton

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© 2017 Siddharth Mandava


Black Americans experience poverty at disproportionately high rates that are concerning both because of the perils of poverty as well as the belief that one’s race should not affect one’s opportunities in life. This paper extends the Capability Approach and argues that basic needs play an important economic role in providing people with a minimum level of opportunity that allows them to avoid poverty. Using MSA-level data on basic needs access and poverty rates, this paper finds that increasing rates of homeownership, high school graduation, and car access as well as decreasing rates of disability are all significantly associated with lower poverty rates for Black Americans. However, the empirical results also show that higher rates of high school graduation and car access for White populations are associated with higher rates of Black poverty, likely due to spillover effects in the labor market that crowd out Black workers.