Research over the last few years has shown that poverty actually impedes people's thinking. It's just harder to think clearly and methodically when you're under the stress of poverty. Here's a great infographic that presents some relevant data.
A new study from the Economic Policy Institute reports findings on how economic growth is not a panacea to reduce poverty. As an article in the New York Times explains,
"From 1959 to 1973, a more robust United States economy and fewer people living below the poverty line went hand-in-hand. That relationship broke apart in the mid-1970s. If the old relationship between growth and poverty had held up, the E.P.I. researchers find, the poverty rate in the United States would have fallen to zero by 1986 and stayed there ever since."
That is not what happened, of course. The lesson this article takes from the evidence is that policymakers need to rethink poverty reduction:
"If you want to address poverty in the United States, it’s not enough to say that you need to create better incentives for lower-income people to work. You also have to devise strategies that make the benefits of a stronger economy show up in the wages of the people on the edge of poverty, who need it most desperately."
A new book by Karl Alexander reports on thirty years of research on a poor community in Baltimore. The results are further confirmation of limited social mobility in the US. In short, if you're born poor, you'll almost certainly die poor. This is an excerpt from a Mother Jones article about Alexander's book:
"Alexander's findings conflict with the sort of Horatio Alger stories of American mythology, but not with other social science research on upward mobility. His are especially dispiriting. Of the nearly 800 school kids he's been following for 30 years, those who got a better start—because their parents were working or married—tended to stay better off, while the more disadvantaged stayed poor.
Out of the original 800 public school children he started with, 33 moved from low-income birth family to a high-income bracket by the time they neared 30. Alexander found that education, rather than giving kids a fighting chance at a better life, simply preserved privilege across generations. Only 4 percent of the low-income kids he met in 1982 had college degrees when he interviewed them at age 28, whereas 45 percent of the kids from higher-income backgrounds did."
Read the whole article, or look at the book.
The American Dream may have always been more myth than reality, but it appears that it's more myth than ever these days. The Canadian middle class is now doing better than the American middle class.
"Yet today the American dream has derailed, partly because of growing inequality. Or maybe the American dream has just swapped citizenship, for now it is more likely to be found in Canada or Europe — and a central issue in this year’s political campaigns should be how to repatriate it.
A report last month in The Times by David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy noted that the American middle class is no longer the richest in the world, with Canada apparently pulling ahead in median after-tax income. Other countries in Europe are poised to overtake us as well."
See Nicholas Kristof's full op-ed.
Many Americans might think of poverty as primarily an urban problem. However, it's becoming more and more of an issue in the suburbs as well. And in some ways, the suburbs are even a worse place to be poor than the city. Low-density sprawl, lack of public transportation, and fewer social services mean that poverty can be harder to escape. An interesting article in Politico explores this new geography of American poverty.
"People went to suburbia for the American dream, and it became a nightmare,” says Rev. Dwight “Ike” Reighard, MUST’s president and CEO. “People have such little margin in their lives, it’s staggering.”
To fill in those margins, MUST provides services more often seen, or at least imagined, in the inner city: a “work recovery” shelter for the homeless and unemployed; veterans housing; rental assistance; job training; computer labs; health care. Last year its food pantry distributed $1.25 million in groceries. And over the summer MUST volunteers delivered 247,087 lunches to kids who usually rely on school to provide their one meal of the day. That's more than double what it was just four years ago."
Check out the whole article.
The New York Times has an interesting look at how costs for goods and services have changed over the last several decades. Some things--such as televisions and computers--are much less expensive relative to decades ago, while other things--especially college tuition--are much more expensive.
"Indeed, despite improved living standards, the poor have fallen further behind the middle class and the affluent in both income and consumption. The same global economic trends that have helped drive down the price of most goods also have limited the well-paying industrial jobs once available to a huge swath of working Americans. And the cost of many services crucial to escaping poverty — including education, health care and child care — has soared."
Read the whole article.
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.
Poverty Education Center