Obama draws line between racial segregation of the past and class segregation today

Updated 3:21 PM EDT, Tue May 12, 2015
bts obama georgetown poverty guard against cynicism _00001112.jpg
bts obama georgetown poverty guard against cynicism _00001112.jpg
Now playing
02:25
Obama: Fighting poverty can't fall prey to cynicism
baltimore violent crime after freddie gray death marquez dnt tsr_00000404.jpg
WABL
baltimore violent crime after freddie gray death marquez dnt tsr_00000404.jpg
Now playing
02:43
Baltimore violent crime surges after riots
Freddie Gray arrest Baltimore
WJZ
Freddie Gray arrest Baltimore
Now playing
01:59
Officers cleared in Freddie Gray's death
baltimore police interview brooke part 1_00013029.jpg
baltimore police interview brooke part 1_00013029.jpg
Now playing
05:41
Baltimore cop: 'This is a life-changing event'
baltimore police interview brooke part 2_00011813.jpg
baltimore police interview brooke part 2_00011813.jpg
Now playing
05:17
Baltimore officer: Proactive policing 'has stopped'
community organizer deray mckesson wolf blitzer intv_00001816.jpg
community organizer deray mckesson wolf blitzer intv_00001816.jpg
Now playing
03:38
Community organizer on violence in Baltimore protests
lead dnt sidner police union baltimore mayor_00005102.jpg
lead dnt sidner police union baltimore mayor_00005102.jpg
Now playing
01:57
Department of Justice announces Baltimore police probe
nr bpr jones baltimore police gun suspect _00000227.jpg
WBAL
nr bpr jones baltimore police gun suspect _00000227.jpg
Now playing
01:55
Baltimore police: Reports of man shot not true
freddie gray autopsy fenton sot ac_00001107.jpg
freddie gray autopsy fenton sot ac_00001107.jpg
Now playing
01:45
Freddie Gray suffered a single 'high-energy' injury
pkg sidner anthony batts profile_00005008.jpg
pkg sidner anthony batts profile_00005008.jpg
Now playing
01:26
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts fired
A sign inside the back door of a Baltimore police detainee transport vehicle warns about the ride
From Oliver Janney
A sign inside the back door of a Baltimore police detainee transport vehicle warns about the ride
Now playing
02:35
Baltimore police van sign: "Enjoy your ride"
nr sot police baltimore incident presser_00000807.jpg
nr sot police baltimore incident presser_00000807.jpg
Now playing
01:02
Baltimore police: Man was not injured
rev frank reid on baltimore live ac_00003206.jpg
rev frank reid on baltimore live ac_00003206.jpg
Now playing
02:57
Rev. Frank Reid on Baltimore violence
People attend a rally lead by faith leaders in front of Baltimore's city hall calling for justice in response to the death of Freddie Gray on Sunday May 3.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
People attend a rally lead by faith leaders in front of Baltimore's city hall calling for justice in response to the death of Freddie Gray on Sunday May 3.
Now playing
02:23
'You can protest, but keep the peace'
:A body camera from Taser is seen during a press conference at City Hall September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department is embarking on a six- month pilot program where 250 body cameras will be used by officers. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
:A body camera from Taser is seen during a press conference at City Hall September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department is embarking on a six- month pilot program where 250 body cameras will be used by officers. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:52
Senator presses for body cameras on police
RS Did the media do Baltimore justice?_00014924.jpg
RS Did the media do Baltimore justice?_00014924.jpg
Now playing
04:52
Did the media do Baltimore justice?
nr baldwin intv boulware neighborhood_00000310.jpg
nr baldwin intv boulware neighborhood_00000310.jpg
Now playing
01:44
Resident: We need to invest more into our children
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:57
Ray Lewis to protesters: 'Go home'
(CNN) —  

More than a week after streets in Baltimore erupted in violence, President Barack Obama attempted on Tuesday to pinpoint the roots of the unrest there, which he says include a lack of opportunity for inner-city youth and laws that make it difficult to escape a cycle of crime.

Joining prominent policy experts to discuss the roots and potential solutions to poverty, Obama identified what he said was a troubling trend toward social stratification that separates the well-off from the poor.

“What used to be racial segregation now mirrors itself in class segregation,” Obama said. “This great sorting (has) taken place. It creates its own politics. There are some communities where not only do I not know poor people, I don’t even know people who have trouble paying the bills at the end of the month. I just don’t know those people. And so there’s less sense of investment in those children.”

Obama’s remarks came as part of a larger conference on poverty sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Thought.

The panel, moderated by The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, also included Harvard Public Policy Professor Robert Putnam and Arthur Brooks, the president of the right-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute.

RELATED: A different Obama speaks up on race

The gathering came as a response to Pope Francis’ call for the church to better serve the world’s poorest people. Obama has publicly praised the renewed attention the pope has placed on combating poverty, and the two discussed the issue when they met last year at the Vatican.

More recently, Obama has cited the pervasive and seemingly inescapable cycle of poverty when discussing the origins of violence in places like Ferguson and Baltimore, where large protests exploded after black men were shot by police officers.

On Tuesday Obama cited the programs he’s implemented to address issues like the opportunity gap in inner cities, like his My Brother’s Keeper program that emphasizes mentorships for young minority men and boys.

And he strongly defended the personal approach he’s taken of late in addressing issues of poverty in black communities.

“I make no apologies for that. And the reason is because I am a black man who grew up without a father,” Obama said. “I know the costs that I paid for it. And I also know that I had the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence I think my daughters are better off.”

RELATED: Obama says Warren ‘absolutely wrong’ on trade

In 2008, when he was running for president, Obama pledged to end childhood hunger in America by 2015, a goal that now seems all but unattainable. The combined forces of the worst recession in decades and stagnant wages have led to yearly increases in the number of Americans on food stamps.

Last year the Census Bureau estimated 45.3 million Americans lived in poverty – including almost 20% of American children. Those figures, however, represented a decline in the poverty rate from mid-recession highs.

A Census report later in the year found that out-of-pocket medical expenses are causing 11 million Americans to fall into poverty. Conversely, benefits from food stamps, tax credits and social security are keeping roughly 40 million Americans from falling below the poverty line.

The White House points to a slate of programs introduced by Obama that are meant to combat poverty, including new grants for high-poverty areas, the “My Brother’s Keeper” program for young minority men, and raising the maximum Pell grant for higher education.

“The President doesn’t treat this conversation as one to be had only every few months surrounding the latest tragedy captured on camera and replayed on the news,” wrote Jerry Abramson, the President’s director of intergovernmental affairs, in an email to Obama supporters Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Republicans – led by Rep. Paul Ryan – have also taken on poverty as an agenda item. Ryan, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, embarked on a listening tour in poor neighborhoods across the country and sought to include poverty-combatting items in the GOP budgets he prepared as chairman of the House Budget panel.

Critics complained, however, that government spending programs Ryan’s budgets cut – including job training initiatives – are actually preventing more Americans from falling into poverty.

Ryan defended his plans Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.

“It’s not a function of pumping more money into the same failed system because we’ll just get the same failed result. It’s rethinking how we actually attack the root causes of poverty. All we do these days effectively is treat the symptoms of poverty,” Ryan said.