Poverty Education Center
Poverty Education Center Blog
  • Upcoming Event: Why Is College So Expensive?

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 10/17/2014 04:33:29 PM


    College costs, student debt, and societal inequality

    College debt image

    A panel discussion

    Thursday, November 6th

    7:00 to 8:30pm

    Student Center room 160

    Higher education in the United States used to be a great motor of social mobility. Today, however, higher education in this country is more expensive than anywhere else in the world. Critics allege that universities exacerbate inequality, retard social mobility, and perpetuate privilege.

    The facts are startling: students from the current generation have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income, than preceding generations. Two-thirds of recent bachelor’s degree recipients have student loans, with an average debt of about $27,000. In recent years, more than half of new college graduates were jobless or underemployed. And universities are becoming less accessible to people from lower income backgrounds: of Americans age 25 to 34 whose parents didn’t finish high school, only 5% attain a college degree.

    This provocative discussion will consider how American universities are contributing to inequality. Why have they become so expensive? How is student debt a problem of social justice? What policies can remedy these problems? How does Seattle University relate to these trends?

    Four panelists will provide challenging perspectives on these issues: Marc Webster and Rachelle Sharpe from the Washington Student Achievement Council; Dr. David Madsen from Seattle University; and Michael Kaemingk, a 2012 SU alumnus and co-founder of Salish Sea Cooperative Finance, which works to reduce college graduates’ debt burdens.

    Sponsored by the Poverty Education Center. Please contact Dr. Ben Curtis (curtisb@seattleu.edu) with any questions.

    Upcoming events featuring Dean Karlan of Yale

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 10/6/2014 09:17:08 PM

    Dean Karlan is one of the most influential development economists in the field today. He is Professor of Economics at Yale University, and President and Founder of Innovations for Poverty Action.

    He will be speaking at a panel at Seattle University from noon to 1:00pm on October 16th in PIGT 102. The topic of the panel is "SMEs and Poverty Alleviation: India's Next Big Challenge." The other panelists will be Sachi Shenoy, Executive Director and Co-founder of Upaya Social Ventures; Melanie Audette, Deputy Director of Mission Investors Exchange; and Akhtar Badshah, a prominent social entrepreneur.

    The second event is Professor Karlan's public lecture on "Pragmatic Optimism in the Fight Against Poverty: Lessons from Behavioral Economics," held in Pigott Auditorium on October 16th from 5:30 to 6:30pm.

    These events are sponsored by the Howard J. Bosanko Endowed Professorship in International Economics and Finance.

    Upcoming Event: Ghana's Oil for Food Initiative

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 10/6/2014 09:07:41 PM


    A panel organized by Oxfam America, Global Washington, and Seattle University's Poverty Education Center
    October 20th at 6:00pm
    Student Center room 160

    A revolutionary new program aims to reduce poverty in Ghana. Smallholder farmers represent 60 percent of Ghana's population, but very often they live with high rates of poverty and are ignored in policy decisions regarding resource allocation.

    Last year a coalition of farmers and civil society groups in Ghana successfully petitioned the government to commit 15 percent of its oil revenues to agriculture in the 2014 budget. Ghana's oil exports are expected to generate an average of $1 billion USD in government revenue per year for the next 20 years.

    Come hear from some of the people who helped make this revolutionary Oil for Food program happen and are monitoring its implementation. Is it working? Are oil revenues reaching smallholder farmers? What are the lessons for oil revenue management in other countries?

    Panelists include Mohammad Amin Adam, the Executive Director of the Africa Center for Energy Policy; Victoria Adongo, the Program Coordinator of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana; and Ian Gary, Senior Policy Manager for Extractive Industries of Oxfam America.

    Attendance is open to all, but please register for the event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/ghanas-oil-for-food-initiative-tickets-13143094349

    The toll of the recession on the poor

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 8/27/2014 04:50:06 PM

    An interesting infographic from Mother Jones details how badly the poor have fared since the recession.

    "Their median net worth has always been pretty close to zero, but by 2011 it had plummeted to $-6,029. On average, poor families were in the hole to the tune of $6,000, an astronomical and completely debilitating number to someone with barely poverty-level earnings."

    Have a look at the post.

    Poverty capitalism?

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 8/27/2014 04:46:54 PM

    Thomas Edsall in the NYT alleges that municipal budgets for such things as corrections and law enforcement are being balanced on the backs of poor people. Through things such as offender charges, often the people who have very little financial means are being forced to pay for their own jury trial.

    "Poverty capitalism and government policy are now working on their own and in tandem to shift costs to those least equipped to pay and in particular to the least politically influential segment of the poor: criminal defendants and those delinquent in paying fines.

    Last year, Ferguson, Mo., the site of recent protests over the shooting of Michael Brown, used escalating municipal court fines to pay 20.2 percent of the city’s $12.75 million budget. Just two years earlier, municipal court fines had accounted for only 12.3 percent of the city’s revenues."

    Check out the whole article.

    A conservative take on the universal basic income

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 8/3/2014 12:42:10 PM

    One idea for fighting poverty is a "universal basic income," essentially payments to people to ensure that they remain above a monetary poverty line. One commentator in The Week derides the idea, however:

    "The only type of welfare policy that reliably gets people who can work into work is a welfare policy with work requirements. All the evidence strongly suggests that if you have a UBI, the outcome is exactly what many conservatives fear will happen: Millions of people who could work won't, just listing away in socially destructive idleness (with the consequences of this lost productivity reverberating throughout the society in lower growth and, probably, lower employment, in a UBI-enabled vicious cycle)."

    See the whole article for his perspective on research about why the universal basic income can't work.


    The wealth gap between black and white Americans

    Posted by Benjamin Curtis on 8/3/2014 12:35:40 PM

    New research sheds a different light on inequality in the United States. Certainly African-Americans all too often have unequal access to jobs, education, and civil rights compared to white Americans. Good news might seem to be that the income gap between black and white Americans has lessened in recent decades--but even that story masks persistent disparities.

    "When you zero in on income, African Americans would seem to have gained significant ground since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Today, for instance, the difference between the percentage of white and black households earning $50,000 and $75,000 is within shouting distance18.7 for whites versus 15.1 percent for blacks, according to the Census Bureau. But look at the respective wealth of white and black America, and you get the real story. In 1984, the median working-age white family had inflation-adjusted assets worth $90,851, compared with a net worth of only $5,781 for the median black family of working age. (Focusing on working-age families yields a subject group older and relatively more prosperous than the aggregate but is easier to track over time; the inequality ratio for the overall white and black populations is actually even higher.) A quarter century later, the median white wealth had jumped to $265,000, while median black wealth was just $28,500. The racial wealth gap among working-age families, in other words, is a stunning $236,500, and there is every reason to believe that figure has widened in the five years since."

    What to do about this problem? The article in the New Republic has a number of suggestions, including "baby bonds," an asset accumulation program that would start at birth, with subsidies for households below median wealth. It's a provocative perspective on the disadvantages that blacks can endure compared to whites, and how possibly to correct such historic injustices.


    Jesuit Universities Engaging Poverty: Perspectives from Seattle and Managua

     On May 11th, the Poverty Education Center hosted "Jesuit Universities Engaging Poverty: Perspectives from Seattle and Managua." The event brought together students, faculty, staff, and community members to hear from Seattle University and la Universidad Centroamericana about how they were engaging poverty in their communities. 

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