To the editor:

Harold Henderson has it wrong [City File, April 22]. In a study of demographic or epidemiologic trends, one must use percentages instead of raw numbers. Fifty cases of a disease may be an epidemic if we’re looking at a population of 100 people; if we’re looking at a population of two million, it may not be. Poverty is a pathogen, so in this case the principles of epidemiology apply.

In the example Henderson gives, the percent of Chicago children in poverty rose between 1979-’89, while the actual number of poor kids dropped during that same period. Seen as an undesirable trend that we’d like to minimize relative to the entire city population, child poverty is now a greater problem than it was in 1979.

Another way of putting it: there are fewer children in Chicago than there were ten years ago, yet a much higher relative number of them are poor. As Chicago’s overall child population shrinks, a child in the city has an ever-greater chance of being born into poverty.

Perfect data, in my opinion, with which to slap those “stingy suburban Republicans.” To where, and by whom, do you think the city’s resources–investment capital, tax base, jobs–have been siphoned off, anyway?

David Whiteis

Fort Wayne