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Finally, the American Realities book was published by Steidl!

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You can check it out and order it here.

And this is a review on Slate.com.

“Anybody Could Fall Into Such Hardship”: A Photographer’s Look at Poverty in America

By David Rosenberg

Firebaugh, California

Joakim Eskildsen never considered himself to be an assignment photographer. That changed when Kira Pollack, Time’s director of photography, asked him to work on a project about poverty in the United States. Pollack had seen Eskildsen’s book The Roma Journeys, a detailed look into the lives of Roma Gypsies living in seven countries. So for a project in 2011, Pollack asked Eskildsen to photograph some of the most impoverished areas in New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Georgia over seven months.

During his first trip to Athens, Georgia, Eskildsen traveled by himself. He said that Time liked the work he produced, but he felt he needed someone to accompany him, since the subject was too intense to deal with alone. Throughout the rest of his travels, he was joined by journalist Natasha del Toro, who also wrote the texts for the photographs that eventually became part of his new book, American Realities, published by Steidl.

“The stories and the atmosphere were very depressive, and almost everyone we talked to or interviewed cried at some point,” he wrote via email. “It was in many ways very hard to face all this. I had the feeling anybody could fall into such hardship.”

Eskildsen said that he prefers to spend a significant amount of time with his subjects so that his presence feels less jarring to them. During this project, he said many of the encounters he had with his subjects were brief, lasting at most a few hours, so he returned to visit them several times.

Eagle Butte, South Dakota Fresno, California

To read the rest of the article, visit Slate.com.

Why the Poor Die Young

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By Derek Thompson
April 12, 2016

A massive study of health and income found that smoking, obesity, and exercise are the most important determinants of longevity. Poor neighborhoods score worse in all of them. What’s going on?

“Geography is destiny.”

Economists once used this theory to try to explain the difference between rich and poor countries. But in the last few years, something like it has become a grand theory for rich and poor within the United States. Researchers have shown that where a family lives dramatically shapes children’s education, income, and their potential to earn more than their parents.

Geography’s most consequential legacy might be life itself. In a new study released Monday morning and reported in The New York Times, the life expectancy of the poorest Americans can differ by many years in neighborhoods that are fewer than 100 miles apart. In the belt running from Texas through Michigan, the typical lifespan has fallen behind the national average. Meanwhile, Americans living in cities, particularly on the coasts, are not only living longer but also have lower incidences of diabetes, stroke, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. Where one lives shapes when one dies.

Why are America’s poor dying young? According to the paper, the causes are internal. Most of the variation in life expectancy doesn’t come from “external factors,” like murder, but rather from medical causes, like heart disease and diabetes. The poor die early because they get sicker faster.

And why do the poor get sick? Several variables could not explain it, like access to medical care, their environment, income inequality, or labor-market conditions. Instead, the most important correlations were with behaviors, especially smoking and obesity (both highly negative) and exercise (positive, but the relationship was slightly little weaker).

It sounds like the most predictable finding in the world. If somebody eats healthy food, exercises regularly, and doesn’t smoke, on average she’ll outlive someone who eats junk food and smokes on the couch in a dangerous part of town.

But it poses a question whose answer is anything but obvious: Why do the poor in some cities have such unhealthy lifestyles? Researchers know the places where the poor live the longest. They are: New York, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Newark, and Boston. Several of these cities—particularly San Jose and San Francisco—are also among the most expensive places to live. Is it possible that building more housing for poorer Americans to live in these areas might introduce them to environments where healthy behaviors are already the norm, improving not only their economic fortunes but also their health?

* * *

People act like the people around them. It’s well observed in sociology that behaviors ranging from an innocuous interest in fashion to a propensity for smoking can spread through local networks, like a virus. There is extremely strong evidence that every behavior identified in the health-inequality paper—smoking, obesity, and exercise—can spread infectiously through social groups.

“If your friends are obese, your risk of obesity is 45 percent higher,” says Nicholas Christakis, a Yale University professor who is one of the country’s leading researchers on socially contagious behaviors. “If your friend’s friends are obese, your risk of obesity is 25 percent higher. If your friend’s friend’s friend, someone you probably don’t even know, is obese, your risk of obesity is 10 percent higher.” Christakis has even found that the mere onset of obesity can be infectious. If somebody becomes obese, it increases his friend’s risk of obesity by about 57 percent.

To read the full story, visit theatlantic.com.

Lake Wobegon Days: Half Of American Children Are In Near Poverty

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By: Tim Worstall
March 3, 2016

The idea that half of all American children are in poverty or near being in poverty is not one that we’d really be comfortable entertaining. It would show that our society isn’t taking care of the most vulnerable people within it for example. And that’s what a new report now tells us: that half of American children are either in or near being in poverty. Thus this is a terrible indictment of how society is organised.

Or, you know, perhaps not? Because it does rather depend upon what we define as poverty and even more perhaps upon what we define as near poverty. And the definition actually used here is one that means that pretty much inevitably we’re going to be defining half American children as being in poverty or near it. On the basis that the definition of what is “near poverty” is also really very close indeed to median household income. And, for those who don’t get Garrison Keillor’s joke, median income is where we expect half the households in the country to have an income higher than and half lower than. Thus if children were equally distributed across households (they’re not) and we define near poverty as being median income, then by definition half of all children will be in near poverty.

And that is exactly what this new report does:

Nearly half of children in the United States live dangerously close to the poverty line, according to new research from the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University’sMailman School of Public Health. Basic Facts about Low-Income Children, the center’s annual series of profiles on child poverty in America, illustrates the severity of economic instability and poverty conditions faced by more than 31 million children throughout the United States. Using the latest data from the American Community Survey, NCCP researchers found that while the total number of children in the U.S. has remained about the same since 2008, more children today are likely to live in families barely able to afford their most basic needs.

Sounds terrible if not even spooky, doesn’t it?

However, perhaps the first thing we should say about these numbers are that they are working from market incomes. In more detail, that’s any cash income from whatever work might be done in those households, plus cash welfare and social security. What these numbers do not include is the impact of the things that we do to reduce poverty as it is actually experienced. The effects of Medicaid, SNAP, the EITC, free school meals, Section 8 vouchers, in fact the whole plethora of some 80 poverty reduction programs (other than straight cash welfare payments) are entirely ignored here. So it’s not in fact true that near half of American children are living in poverty or near it. What is true is that if we didn’t have a benefits and welfare system then near half of American children would be living in what this report describes as poverty or near poverty. Those two are really not the same thing at all. Which, given that we spend some $800 billion a year or so on those poverty reduction programs is probably a good thing.

To read the complete article, visit Forbes.com.

Why Are White Death Rates Rising?

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By ANDREW J. CHERLIN
FEB. 22, 2016

IT’S disturbing and puzzling news: Death rates are rising for white, less-educated Americans. The economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton reported in December that rates have been climbing since 1999 for non-Hispanic whites age 45 to 54, with the largest increase occurring among the least educated. An analysis of death certificates by The New York Times found similar trends and showed that the rise may extend to white women.

Both studies attributed the higher death rates to increases in poisonings and chronic liver disease, which mainly reflect drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, and to suicides. In contrast, death rates fell overall for blacks and Hispanics.

Why are whites overdosing or drinking themselves to death at higher rates than African-Americans and Hispanics in similar circumstances? Some observers have suggested that higher rates of chronic opioid prescriptions could be involved, along with whites’ greater pessimism about their finances.

Yet I’d like to propose a different answer: what social scientists call reference group theory. The term “reference group” was pioneered by the social psychologist Herbert H. Hyman in 1942, and the theory was developed by the Columbia sociologist Robert K. Merton in the 1950s. It tells us that to comprehend how people think and behave, it’s important to understand the standards to which they compare themselves.

How is your life going? For most of us, the answer to that question means comparing our lives to the lives our parents were able to lead. As children and adolescents, we closely observed our parents. They were our first reference group.

And here is one solution to the death-rate conundrum: It’s likely that many non-college-educated whites are comparing themselves to a generation that had more opportunities than they have, whereas many blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to a generation that had fewer opportunities.

To read the complete article, visit NYTimes.com

10 States Most (and Least) Likely to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

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By Terence Loose

The state in which you choose to live can play a big role in how far your paycheck stretches each month. Some states are just more expensive than others, forcing you to spend more of your paycheck on necessities.

GOBankingRates has identified the best — and worst — states for avoiding a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. Data was collected to rank all 50 states in a range of categories, including median household income and the cost of housing, food, transportation, utilities, and healthcare. We crunched those numbers to see which states’ residents had the biggest portion of their paycheck left at the end of the month. Click through to see if you live in a state that’s kind on your income or one that stretches your budget too thin.

10 States Most Likely to Live Paycheck By Paycheck

The 10 States Where You’re Most Likely to Live Paycheck to Paycheck
There are certain states in the country where your paycheck just isn’t enough to make ends meet. The 10 states where you’re most likely to live payday to payday don’t necessarily have low median household incomes — in fact, a few states with some of the highest median incomes per paycheck in the nation made this list. It’s their high costs for things such as housing, utilities or transportation that eat up paychecks, suggesting that the incomes, though high compared with other states, are actually still disproportionate to the costs of living.

To read the complete article, visit the personal finance website by GObankingrates.com.

Lower pay for poor is widening US income gap, study finds

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By Josh Boak

WASHINGTON (AP) — The income gap in major U.S. cities goes beyond the trend of rising paychecks for those at the top: Pay has plummeted for those at the bottom.

Many of the poorest households still earn just a fraction of what they made before the Great Recession began in late 2007. Even as the recovery gained momentum in 2014 with otherwise robust job growth, incomes for the bottom 20 percent slid in New York City, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Washington and St. Louis, according to an analysis of Census data released Thursday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

“It’s really about the poor losing ground rather than these upper-class households pulling away,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings and deputy director of its metropolitan policy program.

Consider Cincinnati, home to such major companies as Procter & Gamble and Macy’s that are associated with middle class prosperity. Its bottom 20 percent earned just $10,454 in 2014. After inflation, that’s 3 percent less than what they earned in 2013 — and 25 percent below their incomes when the recession started eight years ago.

Cincinnati’s top 5 percent of earners made at least $164,410 in 2014, a figure that has increased since 2013, though it remains 7 percent below pre-recession levels.

The consequence is a widening income gap. The top 5 percent earned 15.7 times what the bottom 20 percent did in Cincinnati. Nationally, this ratio was 9.3 — the same as in 2013. Before the recession, the ratio was 8.5.

The poorest have clawed back some of their earning power since the economy officially began to recover 6½ years ago. But the analysis suggests that strong job growth and modest pay raises have failed to pull millions of Americans back up the economic ladder.

To read the full article, go to AP.org.

Mismeasuring Poverty

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A federal tally of assistance to the poor missed 40% of food-stamp recipients in New York state.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/IKON IMAGES

By Robert Doar

Here’s good news for policy makers—on the right and left—concerned about poverty in the United States. A new study by economists Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and Nikolas Mittag of Charles University shows that public-assistance programs are far more effective in alleviating poverty than many government statistics suggest.

The problem lies in the way the U.S. Census Bureau measures poverty. According to the bureau’s website, the government’s “official poverty definition uses money income before taxes and does not include capital gains or noncash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps).” This has long been known to underestimate income sources and material well-being in low-income households.

In 2011 experts working with the Census Bureau developed a new metric, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, to better measure the effects of government-assistance programs and tax policies on families. But the Meyer-Mittag study, published last month through the American Enterprise Institute, found a serious flaw common to both measures: reliance on a government survey of income that vastly understates the government assistance flowing to poor households.

The authors checked the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) responses from low-income Americans against the actual administrative records of government benefits disbursed to those same respondents in New York state. They discovered that “the survey data sharply understate the income of poor households,” and that “underreporting in the survey data also greatly understates the effects of anti-poverty programs.”

In New York state, the sole focus of the study, the CPS data missed a third of housing-assistance recipients, 40% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients (food stamps), and 60% of those who received cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or General Assistance (New York state’s cash assistance program).

Among those who did report receiving benefits, the CPS underreported the average value of those benefits by 6% for SNAP, 40% for cash, and 74% for housing assistance. Remember, this is a primary survey on which the government bases much of its information about progress in reducing poverty.

To read the complete article, go to Wall Street Journal.

‘Poverty pay’ leads Walmart employees to skip lunch – or steal it from coworkers

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Workers group Our Walmart announces 15-day fast to protest company’s wages, demanding $15 an hour and full-time schedules ahead of busy holiday season

How low can you go? Walmart’s workers don’t want to find out. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Walmart employees are so poor that they are skipping lunch, sharing it or, in some cases, stealing it from their coworkers, some of the company’s workers claimed on Thursday while announcing a fast in protest of the company’s wages.

Starting Friday morning, over 100 Walmart associates who are members of Our Walmart, a workers organization, and about a 1,000 supporters will begin a fast to shine light on what they describe as Walmart’s “poverty pay”.

The protest comes in the run-up to Thanksgiving and the Black Friday shopping bonanza, one of Walmart’s busiest periods. Some of the workers will take their fast to the doorstep of Walmart heiress Alice Walton’s apartment in New York City.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced it was raising wages for about half a million of its employees, paying them at least $9 an hour – $1.75 above the federally mandated minimum wage. The company plans to further increase their pay to $10 an hour next year.

Struggling workers take wage protest to upscale doorstep of Walmart heiress Alice Walton

The workers say that’s still not enough and demand that they be paid $15 an hour and be given full-time schedules. The name of the 15-day fast is Fast for 15.

Tyfani Faulkner, a former Walmart customer service manager from Sacramento, California, who worked for company for about five years, will be one of those fasting in protest.

“Every day there are associates who go to work with no lunch, or an unhealthy lunch, because that’s all they can afford. I have seen instances where some would eat another associate’s lunch from the refrigerator because they have nothing to eat,” said Faulkner.

To read the full story, go to

What if Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong

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Researcher Kathryn Edin left the ivory tower for the streets of Camden—and turned sociology upside down.
—By Stephanie Mencimer

BLOND AND MIDWESTERN CHEERFUL, Kathryn Edin could be a cruise director, except that instead of showing off the lido deck, she’s pointing out where the sex traffickers live off a run-down strip of East Camden, New Jersey. Her blue eyes sparkle as she highlights neighborhood landmarks: the scene of a hostage standoff where police shot a man after he’d murdered a couple in their home and abducted their four-year-old; the front yard where a guy was gunned down after trying to settle a dispute between his son and two other teens.

Edin, 51, talks to every stranger we pass. She chirps hello to some guys working on a car jacked up in their front yard, some dudes selling pot, and a little girl driving a pink plastic jeep on the sidewalk. Most of them look at her like she’s from another planet—which in a way, she is.

A sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, Edin is one of the nation’s preeminent poverty researchers. She has spent much of the past several decades studying some of the country’s most dangerous, impoverished neighborhoods. But unlike academics who draw conclusions about poverty from the ivory tower, Edin has gotten up close and personal with the people she studies—and in the process has shattered many myths about the poor, rocking sociology and public-policy circles.

Continue reading this article on motherjones.com.

The Broken Contract: Inequality and American Decline

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This essay by New Yorker writer George Packer does an excellent job of laying out some of the reasons why we are seeing widening economic inequality in America and what this means for our country. In fact, this article is what inspired me to create the American Realities website. I strongly suggest you read it.

By George Packer from Foreign Affairs NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011 ISSUE

Iraq was one of those wars where people actually put on pounds. A few years ago, I was eating lunch with another reporter at an American-style greasy spoon in Baghdad’s Green Zone. At a nearby table, a couple of American contractors were finishing off their burgers and fries. They were wearing the contractor’s uniform: khakis, polo shirts, baseball caps, and Department of Defense identity badges in plastic pouches hanging from nylon lanyards around their necks. The man who had served their food might have been the only Iraqi they spoke with all day. The Green Zone was set up to make you feel that Iraq was a hallucination and you were actually in Normal, Illinois. This narcotizing effect seeped into the consciousness of every American who hunkered down and worked and partied behind its blast walls — the soldier and the civilian, the diplomat and the journalist, the important and the obscure. Hardly anyone stayed longer than a year; almost everyone went home with a collection of exaggerated war stories, making an effort to forget that they were leaving behind shoddy, unfinished projects and a country spiraling downward into civil war. As the two contractors got up and ambled out of the restaurant, my friend looked at me and said, “We’re just not that good anymore.”

The Iraq war was a kind of stress test applied to the American body politic. And every major system and organ failed the test: the executive and legislative branches, the military, the intelligence world, the for-profits, the nonprofits, the media. It turned out that we were not in good shape at all — without even realizing it. Americans just hadn’t tried anything this hard in around half a century. It is easy, and completely justified, to blame certain individuals for the Iraq tragedy. But over the years, I’ve become more concerned with failures that went beyond individuals, and beyond Iraq — concerned with the growing arteriosclerosis of American institutions. Iraq was not an exceptional case. It was a vivid symptom of a long-term trend, one that worsens year by year. The same ailments that led to the disastrous occupation were on full display in Washington this past summer, during the debt-ceiling debacle: ideological rigidity bordering on fanaticism, an indifference to facts, an inability to think beyond the short term, the dissolution of national interest into partisan advantage.

Was it ever any different? Is it really true that we’re just not that good anymore? As a thought experiment, compare your life today with that of someone like you in 1978. Think of an educated, reasonably comfortable couple perched somewhere within the vast American middle class of that year. And think how much less pleasant their lives are than yours. The man is wearing a brown and gold polyester print shirt with a flared collar and oversize tortoiseshell glasses; she’s got on a high-waisted, V-neck rayon dress and platform clogs. Their morning coffee is Maxwell House filter drip. They drive an AMC Pacer hatchback, with a nonfunctioning air conditioner and a tape deck that keeps eating their eight-tracks. When she wants to make something a little daring for dinner, she puts together a pasta primavera. They type their letters on an IBM Selectric, the new model with the corrective ribbon. There is only antenna television, and the biggest thing on is Laverne and Shirley. Long-distance phone calls cost a dollar a minute on weekends; air travel is prohibitively expensive. The city they live near is no longer a place where they spend much time: trash on the sidewalks, junkies on the corner, vandalized pay phones, half-deserted subway cars covered in graffiti.

By contemporary standards, life in 1978 was inconvenient, constrained, and ugly. Things were badly made and didn’t work very well. Highly regulated industries, such as telecommunications and airlines, were costly and offered few choices. The industrial landscape was decaying, but the sleek information revolution had not yet emerged to take its place. Life before the Android, the Apple Store, FedEx, HBO, Twitter feeds, Whole Foods, Lipitor, air bags, the Emerging Markets Index Fund, and the pre-K Gifted and Talented Program prep course is not a world to which many of us would willingly return.

The surface of life has greatly improved, at least for educated, reasonably comfortable people — say, the top 20 percent, socioeconomically. Yet the deeper structures, the institutions that underpin a healthy democratic society, have fallen into a state of decadence. We have all the information in the universe at our fingertips, while our most basic problems go unsolved year after year: climate change, income inequality, wage stagnation, national debt, immigration, falling educational achievement, deteriorating infrastructure, declining news standards. All around, we see dazzling technological change, but no progress. Last year, a Wall Street company that few people have ever heard of dug an 800-mile trench under farms, rivers, and mountains between Chicago and New York and laid fiber-optic cable connecting the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. This feat of infrastructure building, which cost $300 million, shaves three milliseconds off high-speed, high-volume automated trades — a big competitive advantage. But passenger trains between Chicago and New York run barely faster than they did in 1950, and the country no longer seems capable, at least politically, of building faster ones. Just ask people in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, whose governors recently refused federal money for high-speed rail projects.

We can upgrade our iPhones, but we can’t fix our roads and bridges. We invented broadband, but we can’t extend it to 35 percent of the public. We can get 300 television channels on the iPad, but in the past decade 20 newspapers closed down all their foreign bureaus. We have touch-screen voting machines, but last year just 40 percent of registered voters turned out, and our political system is more polarized, more choked with its own bile, than at any time since the Civil War. There is nothing today like the personal destruction of the McCarthy era or the street fights of the 1960s. But in those periods, institutional forces still existed in politics, business, and the media that could hold the center together. It used to be called the establishment, and it no longer exists. Solving fundamental problems with a can-do practicality — the very thing the world used to associate with America, and that redeemed us from our vulgarity and arrogance — now seems beyond our reach.

Read the rest of this essay at foreignffairs.com.

Child poverty is a moral disgrace. And expensive. New report by the Children’s Defense Fund

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It is a national moral disgrace that there are 14.7 million poor children and 6.5 million extremely poor children in the United States of America – the world’s largest economy. It is also unnecessary, costly and the greatest threat to our future national, economic and military security.

The 14.7 million poor children in our nation exceeds the populations of 12 U.S. states combined: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming and is greater than the combined populations of the countries of Sweden and Costa Rica. Our nearly 6.5 million extremely poor children (living below the poverty line) exceeds the combined populations of Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming and is greater than the populations of Denmark or Finland.

The younger children are the poorer they are during their years of greatest brain development. Every other American baby is non-White and 1 in 2 Black babies is poor, 150 years after slavery was legally abolished.

America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parents, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith. In fact if they had been born in 33 other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries they would be less likely to be poor. Among these 35 countries, America ranks 34th in relative child poverty — ahead only of Romania whose economy is 99 percent smaller than ours.

The United Kingdom, whose economy, if it were an American state, would rank just above Mississippi according to the Washington Post, committed to and succeeded in cutting its child poverty rate by half in 10 years. It is about values and political will. Sadly, politics too often trumps good policy and moral decency and responsibility to the next generation and the nation’s future. It is way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty. This report calls for an end to child poverty in the richest nation on earth with a 60 percent reduction immediately. It shows solutions to ending child poverty in our nation already exist. For the first time this report shows how, by expanding investments in existing policies and programs that work, we can shrink overall child poverty 60 percent, Black child poverty 72 percent, and improve economic circumstances for 97 percent of poor children at a cost of $77.2 billion a year. These policies could be pursued immediately, improving the lives and futures of millions of children and eventually saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Child poverty is too expensive to continue. Every year we keep 14.7 million children in poverty costs our nation $500 billion – six times more than the $77 billion investment we propose to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. MIT Nobel Laureate economist and 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Robert Solow in his foreword to a 1994 CDF report Wasting America’s Future presciently wrote: “For many years Americans have allowed child poverty levels to remain astonishingly high…far higher than one would think a rich and ethical society would tolerate. The justification, when one is offered at all, has often been that action is expensive: ‘We have more will than wallet.’ I suspect that in fact our wallets exceed our will, but in any event this concern for the drain on our resources completely misses the other side of the equation: Inaction has its costs too…As an economist I believe that good things are worth paying for; and that even if curing children’s poverty were expensive, it would be hard to think of a better use in the world for money. If society cares about children, it should be willing to spend money on them.”

– See more at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/PovertyReport/EndingChildPovertyNow.html#sthash.TQrWiUwO.dpuf

To check out the full report, visit the Children Defense Fund website.

Reducing Our Obscene Level of Child Poverty

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By: Charles M. Blow

I’m not someone who believes that poverty can ever truly be ended — I’m one of those “the poor will always be with you” types — but I do believe that the ranks of the poor can and must be shrunk and that the effects of poverty can and must be ameliorated.

And there is one area above all others where we should feel a moral obligation to reduce poverty as much as possible and to soften its bite: poverty among children.

People may disagree about the choices parents make — including premarital sex and out-of-wedlock births. People may disagree about access to methods of family planning — including contraception and abortion. People may disagree about the size and role of government — including the role of safety-net programs.

For the complete article, go to nytimes.com

Ferguson Unrest Shows Poverty Grows Fastest in the Suburbs

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By Toluse Olorunnipa and Elizabeth Campbell

A week of violence and protests in a town outside St. Louis is highlighting how poverty is growing most quickly on the outskirts of America’s cities, as suburbs have become home to a majority of the nation’s poor.

In Ferguson, Missouri, a community of 21,000 where the poverty rate doubled since 2000, the dynamic has bred animosity over racial segregation and economic inequality. Protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9 have drawn international attention to the St. Louis suburb’s growing underclass.

To read the story and watch the accompanying video, visit Bloomberg.com

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Chronic job losses, foreclosures and evictions have made for harder times in Fresno, Calif., which has suffered economically for years. TIME meets Fresno residents in an emerging category of poverty: the new poor. Check out this powerful and beautifully shot video by colleague and friend Scott Anger.

Excellent post by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar–The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race

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A protestor during demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo. on August 17, 2014. Jon Lowenstein—Noor for TIME

Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment.

You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.

On May 14th, 10 days after Kent State ignited the nation, at the predominantly black Jackson State University in Mississippi, police killed two black students (one a high school senior, the other the father of an 18-month-old baby) with shotguns and wounded twelve others.

There was no national outcry. The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.

And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.

By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)

Then we’ll start debating whether or not the police in America are themselves an endangered minority who are also discriminated against based on their color—blue. (Yes, they are. There are many factors to consider before condemning police, including political pressures, inadequate training, and arcane policies.) Then we’ll question whether blacks are more often shot because they more often commit crimes. (In fact, studies show that blacks are targeted more often in some cities, like New York City. It’s difficult to get a bigger national picture because studies are woefully inadequate. The Department of Justice study shows that in the U.S. between 2003 and 2009, among arrest-related deaths there’s very little difference among blacks, whites, or Latinos. However, the study doesn’t tell us how many were unarmed.)

This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.

And that’s how the status quo wants it.

The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.

To read the rest of the post, visit my former employer, TIME.com

Robert Rector: How the War on Poverty Was Lost

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Fifty years and $20 trillion later, LBJ’s goal to help the poor become self-supporting has failed.

By: Robert Rector

On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to announce an ambitious government undertaking. “This administration today, here and now,” he thundered, “declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

Fifty years later, we’re losing that war. Fifteen percent of Americans still live in poverty, according to the official census poverty report for 2012, unchanged since the mid-1960s. Liberals argue that we aren’t spending enough money on poverty-fighting programs, but that’s not the problem. In reality, we’re losing the war on poverty because we have forgotten the original goal, as LBJ stated it half a century ago: “to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities.”

LBJ/wsj

President Johnson, promoting a new campaign to help the poor, visits sharecropper William David Marlow and his family on a farm near Rocky Mount, N.C., in May 1964. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted social services to poor and low-income Americans. Government spent $916 billion on these programs in 2012 alone, and roughly 100 million Americans received aid from at least one of them, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. (That figure doesn’t include Social Security or Medicare benefits.) Federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was in 1964. If converted to cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all official poverty in the U.S.

LBJ promised that the war on poverty would be an “investment” that would “return its cost manifold to the entire economy.” But the country has invested $20.7 trillion in 2011 dollars over the past 50 years. What does America have to show for its investment? Apparently, almost nothing: The official poverty rate persists with little improvement.

That is in part because the government’s poverty figures are misleading. Census defines a family as poor based on income level but doesn’t count welfare benefits as a form of income. Thus, government means-tested spending can grow infinitely while the poverty rate remains stagnant.

Not even government, though, can spend $9,000 per recipient a year and have no impact on living standards. And it shows: Current poverty has little resemblance to poverty 50 years ago. According to a variety of government sources, including census data and surveys by federal agencies, the typical American living below the poverty level in 2013 lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair, equipped with air conditioning and cable TV. His home is larger than the home of the average nonpoor French, German or English man. He has a car, multiple color TVs and a DVD player. More than half the poor have computers and a third have wide, flat-screen TVs. The overwhelming majority of poor Americans are not undernourished and did not suffer from hunger for even one day of the previous year.

Do higher living standards for the poor mean that the war on poverty has succeeded? No. To judge the effort, consider LBJ’s original aim. He sought to give poor Americans “opportunity not doles,” planning to shrink welfare dependence not expand it. In his vision, the war on poverty would strengthen poor Americans’ capacity to support themselves, transforming “taxeaters” into “taxpayers.” It would attack not just the symptoms of poverty but, more important, remove the causes.

By that standard, the war on poverty has been a catastrophe. The root “causes” of poverty have not shrunk but expanded as family structure disintegrated and labor-force participation among men dropped. A large segment of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than when the war on poverty began.

The collapse of marriage in low-income communities has played a substantial role in the declining capacity for self-support. In 1963, 6% of American children were born out of wedlock. Today the number stands at 41%. As benefits swelled, welfare increasingly served as a substitute for a bread-winning husband in the home.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s analysis, children raised in the growing number of single-parent homes are four times more likely to be living in poverty than children reared by married parents of the same education level. Children who grow up without a father in the home are also more likely to suffer from a broad array of social and behavioral problems. The consequences continue into adulthood: Children raised by single parents are three times more likely to end up in jail and 50% more likely to be poor as adults.

A lack of parental work poses another major problem. Even in good economic times, a parent in the average poor family works just 800 hours a year, roughly 16 hours weekly, according to census data. Low levels of work mean lower earnings and higher levels of dependence.

So how might we restore LBJ’s original mission in the war on poverty? First, as the economy improves, the government should require able-bodied, non-elderly adult recipients in federal welfare programs to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving benefits. We should also reduce the antimarriage incentives rife within welfare programs. For instance, current programs sharply cut benefits if a mother marries a working father. Reducing these restrictions would begin a long-term effort to rebuild the family in low-income communities.

This would be a better battle plan for eradicating poverty in America than spending more money on failed programs. And it would help achieve LBJ’s objective for the poor to “replace their despair with opportunity.”

Mr. Rector is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

To see the article in full, visit wsj.com.

The Changing Picture Of Poverty: Hard Work Is ‘Just Not Enough’

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Pam Fessler/NPR

poverty photo/npr

There are 46 million poor people in the U.S., and millions more hover right above the poverty line — but go into many of their homes, and you might find a flat-screen TV, a computer or the latest sneakers.

And that raises a question: What does it mean to be poor in America today?

Take Victoria Houser, a 22-year-old single mother who lives in Painted Post, a small town in western New York.

At first glance, her life doesn’t look all that bad. She lives in a cozy two-bedroom apartment. She has food, furniture and toys for her almost 2-year-old son, Brayden. He even likes playing a game called Fruit Ninja on her electronic tablet.

Desiree Metcalf, here with one of her three daughters, is one of many poor Americans who find themselves trapped in a system meant to help.

“He just likes touching it because he always sees me on my computer, my iPad or something,” Houser says.

Brayden’s father is out of the picture, and Houser knows she could be a lot worse off. At least she has a job earning $10 an hour preparing food in a company cafeteria.

Still, you don’t have to look too far to see that her life is teetering on the edge. Her nice-looking apartment? “It’s kind of not a very safe place to live,” she says. “There’ve been quite a few drug busts here.”

Houser says she’s scared to let her son play outside. Her next-door neighbor was recently arrested for allegedly murdering someone and stuffing the body in a cupboard.

Victoria Houser and her son, Brayden, may have food to eat and toys to play with, but she says she feels like she’s teetering on the edge.

But this subsidized housing is all she can afford. Most of Houser’s paycheck goes for things like food, diapers and gas. And she says what look like luxuries are necessities for her. They’re also mostly gifts from family or friends. She says she has a car to get to work, a computer to take online college courses, a cellphone to check up on her son.

But there’s one thing Houser doesn’t have, and that’s a lot of hope for the future.

Listen to and read the full piece at npr.org