Poverty Should Be No Kid's Game
As the United States marks the 51st anniversary of the War on Poverty’s launch, the U.C. Davis Center for Poverty Research’s Marianne Page and Ann Huff Stevens parse in Time Magazine its successes (benefit programs) and failures (measurement strategies, structural and systemic changes). They argue: "The War on Poverty has clearly not been won. No amount of explaining, interpreting or squinting at the plot of U.S. poverty rates can get us to a declaration of victory. Declarations of defeat are just as misguided, however."
Generally speaking, policy has been more effective at reducing poverty among the elderly than among children in the United States. For example, according to one estimate, Social Security lifts 15 million elderly Americans out of poverty. We should therefore now consider a number of strategies that assist working parents, reduce poverty, and provide an investment in children. The United States is one of the very few countries in the world that does not provide paid time off for new parents. Such leave allows parents to stay connected to the labor market while still providing needed care for their infants. Likewise, universal preschool for children ages 3 and 4 would also support parental work and invest in early childhood education. Some of the cognitive inequalities between children of low- and high-income households are already present by the time children reach kindergarten.
According to the Atlantic’s Fawn Johnson, a Washington, DC charter school is combating poverty by offering free classes for adults, as well as their children:
Although teachers and social workers across the country espouse this "two generation" approach, the government generally hasn't invested in these types of programs. State and federal assistance programs are typically targeted to the child or the parent as separate entities—not as a single unit. Most of the programs, moreover, focus on children, perhaps a reflection of the public's reluctance to "reward" adults who are often cast as a drag on society. Yet, most families living in poverty in the U.S. consist of young parents and their young children. Helping kids alone doesn't change the poverty cycle in which they live.
Children and poverty also have collided in the wake of the “tough-on-crime” prison boom, says the Nation’s Katy Reckdahl, examining a variety of research findings including this:
[R]esearchers found that, compared with other at-risk children in the Fragile Families study with similar demographics, children whose fathers had recently been incarcerated were three times more likely to have been homeless in the last year. To reach that conclusion, the researchers created statistical models allowing them to examine and adjust for other factors that can also lead to homelessness, including drug and alcohol abuse and reliance on cash welfare or public housing. “The effects of mass incarceration on childhood inequality are too large to ignore,” the researchers wrote. Parental incarceration “has implications not only for individual children but also for inequality among them.”...That inequality persists well into adulthood.
You might also be interested in this Pacific Magazine piece on the rise of "extreme daycare," 24-hour services (including sleepover) to meet the needs of harried, shift-working parents:
We now have an expanded workweek, often composed of unpredictable hours. Nearly 40 percent of Americans have non-standard work lives. (The average American adult also now works one and a quarter jobs.) Working people who live below the poverty line are particularly afraid to say no to these unusual schedules. They may have no one to say no to, anyway—those schedules might have been created by computers, rather than human managers, in the hopes of saving a corporation money. Many companies now use data and algorithms to schedule employees so fewer hours will be spent sitting around. The software doesn’t care if a shift falls in the middle of the night, or that it might tear a big hole in an employee’s family life.
Meanwhile in National Affairs, the Manhattan Institute's Judah Bellin argues we need better higher education policies for low-income students. "When it comes to college, low-income students already have the cards stacked against them. Instead of making it even harder for them, policymakers should address the particular problems that poor students face in higher education, namely financing their education and finding post-secondary programs that offer flexible schedules and technical training."
Meanwhile, in the New York Times, Neil Irwin argues that we can have strong safety nets that do not deter employment, just look at Scandinavia, which is among countries that subsidize childcare:
Heather Long in CNN takes a look at the equality difference between living in central Pennsylvania and New York City. "As the debate about inequality in America intensifies in the 2016 election cycle, it's important to remember that there are places that are thriving without leaving so many people behind," Long writes. In the New York Times Richard Florida also looks at the Red/Blue State inequality divide:
Red state economies based on energy extraction, agriculture and suburban sprawl may have lower wages, higher poverty rates and lower levels of education on average than those of blue states — but their residents also benefit from much lower costs of living. For a middle-class person , the American dream of a big house with a backyard and a couple of cars is much more achievable in low-tax Arizona than in deep-blue Massachusetts. As Jed Kolko, chief economist of Trulia, recently noted, housing costs almost twice as much in deep-blue markets ($227 per square foot) than in red markets ($119)... Blue state knowledge economies are also extremely expensive to operate. Their innovative edge turns on a high-cost infrastructure of research universities and knowledge institutions — a portion of which demand public subsidy. Their size and density require expensive subway and transit systems to move people around. Blue state cities like New York and San Francisco are booming, but they are hampered by potholes and crumbling infrastructure, troubled public school systems, growing inequality and housing unaffordability, and entrenched poor populations, all of which mean higher public costs and higher tax burdens.
Check out this NYT chart:
The U.S. suburbs “are increasingly home to the very poor, who find themselves stranded in suburbs without the kind of transit or assistance that they might once have found in cities’ urban cores,” says CityLab’s Alana Semuels:
Over at Dissent Magazine, the University of Iowa's Colin Gordon argues suburban sprawl is a contributor to the decline of union participation:
Union leaders—at least outside the building trades—now have a deep appreciation of the impact of sprawl on public- and private-sector unionism. Big-box suburban commercial development displaces union jobs, especially in grocery retail and warehousing. In sectors such as hospitality or building services, union density declines almost in direct proportion to the distance from the urban core. And sprawl undermines public-sector unions either by reducing demand for their services (as with transit) or by putting unrelenting pressure on public budgets—and thereby feeding the backlash against teachers and other public servants.
You might also be interested in these two pieces discussing Andrew Cherlin's new book, "Labor's Love Lost." A post for the Institute of Family Studies looks at the decline of marriageability of men and its relationship with the decline of union participation. And in the Wall Street Journal, Kay Hymowitz discusses "the decoupling of marriage and children."
Over at Bloomberg, Mar Whitehouse discusses a new paper finding that the United States "is doing a significantly worse job of protecting its most vulnerable households than it did a few decades ago":
Specifically, the economists estimate that during the 2008 recession, a one-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate was associated with a nearly 10 percent increase in the share of 18- to 64-year-olds with household incomes of less than half the poverty level. That's roughly double the effect of unemployment in the 1980s recession.
Finally, you may be interested in this exploration from the Atlantic’s Leah Sottile of the psychological connections between homelessness and hoarding, as people prepare for “When my life falls apart and I have this personal apocalypse.”
The Philanthrocapitalism blog offers up a number of predictions for 2015, including:
"Inequality and Jobs"--There will be growing pressure on the more enlightened members of the “1% of the 1%” who have embraced large scale philanthropy to demonstrate that their giving is not just putting lipstick on a pig, but really makes a significant difference. "Impact Investing Goes Retail and Political"--The idea that investment should now be evaluated along the three dimensions of risk, return and impact will increasingly become the conventional wisdom. There will be growing demand for “impact investments” explicitly designed to simultaneously deliver both a financial return and achieve a measurable social and/or environmental goal. "The March of the Millennials"--There will be the right sort of backlash by Millennials to some of the uber a-hole behaviour of some of their number in Silicon Valley. Millennials will increasingly take the lead in driving positive social change.
A post from Wharton's Social Impact Initiative discusses recent research in the growing field of impact investing, as well as their own ongoing look into the correlation between financial and social performance of impact investing funds:
This growth has occurred despite the widespread assumption that in making investments intended to achieve social objectives, investors are accepting more modest financial returns than they would if they were to choose investments solely on the basis of their return potential. The idea that there is a tradeoff makes intuitive sense, according to researchers at Wharton who are doing research to answer this and related questions about social impact investing. “If you’re not only looking for financial gains, it implies that you’re almost necessarily sacrificing financial gain,” notes David Musto, a professor of finance, who is leading the research.
In a Private Wealth article, Leila Boulton lists the aggregate impact and vehicles and performance of the top two impact funds from around the globe as claimed by Cathy Clarke, Jed Emerson, and Ben Thornley in their book Impact Investor: Lessons in Leadership and Strategy for Collaborative Capitalism. The two funds are “Aavishkaar, a $9.4 million fund based in Mumbai, India, that invests in early-stage rural enterprises” and “Business Partners Limited, a $331 million fund based in Johannesburg, South Africa, that invests in small and mid-sized businesses." In this piece, Ted Howard reminisces on the history and growth of the economic term "Community Wealth Building," and includes an excerpt from Marjorie Kelly’s book, "Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution":
When families possess assets — valuable skills, social networks, a home, some savings, an ownership stake in a business — they enjoy greater resilience, and are better able to withstand occasional shocks like unemployment or illness. They can plan for their future, send a child to college, feel secure in retirement. A job may start or stop. It is assets, of various kinds, that yield greater stability and security. As this is true of families, it is also true of communities. Jobs may be drawn into a community, but then leave without warning. And if attracting jobs means degrading community assets — through pollution, low-wage jobs, or the loss of tax income through excessive tax breaks — a seeming gain can in fact represent a net loss. If traditional economic development tends to be about attracting industry to a community, building wealth is instead about using under-utilized local assets to make a community more vibrant. It’s about developing assets in such a way that the wealth stays local. And the aim is helping families and communities control their own economic destiny.
Over at the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab looks at corporate social responsibility and says it needs more heft:
We are emerging from a period when companies, under pressure to meet shareholder expectations, favored profitability and growth, even if it meant taking undue risks and losing public confidence. Companies now need to work on minimizing risk and building trust by meeting the legitimate expectations of all their stakeholders, including reducing their activities’ adverse impact on the environment and creating high-quality employment opportunities. But corporate social responsibility is not limited to how a company does business. Firms should use their core competencies to help find solutions to today’s most pressing social problems. In other words, beyond serving its own stakeholders, a company should accept its own role as a stakeholder in our collective future – a sort of quid pro quo for its license to operate.