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The Traffickers, the Militias, and the State

Over the last year and a half, I have been visiting São Paulo and, especially, Rio de Janeiro, observing the process of “pacification,” by which the government attempts to peacefully enter and reestablish state control over the most violent enclaves of the city, those dominated by drug gangs called traficantes, or by syndicates of corrupt police called militias. Until 2008, when the pacification program started, the traficantes controlled roughly half of the favelas, and the militias the other half. Both still hold power in most favelas. The ultimate aim of the state government of Rio’s plan, called the Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP), or Police Pacification Unit, is to drive both of these groups out and replace them by the state. (SLNYRB)

posted by Rustic Etruscan on Aug 29, 2013 - 6 comments

The difficult choices facing families seeking welfare assistance

'Damned if you do, doomed if you don't' - When it comes to violating welfare rules, recipients sometimes do so after suggestions from caseworkers. Published by Al Jazeera America (previously), which opened for business just this month. Consider it a sequel piece to Planet Money's controversial report on dissability fraud (previously).
posted by The Devil Tesla on Aug 28, 2013 - 66 comments

"Elites preying on the weak, the gullible, the marginal, the poor."

"We condition the poor and the working class to go to war. We promise them honor, status, glory, and adventure. We promise boys they will become men. We hold these promises up against the dead-end jobs of small-town life, the financial dislocations, credit card debt, bad marriages, lack of health insurance, and dread of unemployment. The military is the call of the Sirens, the enticement that has for generations seduced young Americans working in fast food restaurants or behind the counters of Walmarts to fight and die for war profiteers and elites."
-- War is Betrayal. Persistent Myths of Combat, an essay by Chris Hedges of Truthdig. Responses within. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 9, 2013 - 57 comments

"What we’re doing is preventing them from being able to get signatures"

Payday lenders target the working poor with quick loans at exorbitant interest rates. When a ballot initiative drive in Missouri threatened this lucrative business, the payday lenders fought back with everything they had--their money. A ProPublica report, published yesterday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch documents the web of secret donations and intimidation that smothered the reform movement.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Aug 3, 2013 - 59 comments

"The need for diapers is 'practically infinite'"

There have been days, since her son Ezekiel was born 11 months ago, that Los Angeles mom Beth Capper has gone without food to keep up her supply. One friend was arrested for stealing some. It's not drugs or alcohol or even baby formula that has put her in such a bind. It's diapers.
posted by the young rope-rider on Jul 30, 2013 - 335 comments

'Crack baby' study ends with unexpected but clear result

"Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine." [more inside]
posted by Orinda on Jul 22, 2013 - 89 comments

"The one with no legs, being carried by the one who could not see."

In 2009, ESPN producer Lisa Fenn worked on a story about two high-school wrestlers, Leroy Sutton and Dartanyon Crockett. Sutton was hit by a train when he was a child and had both his legs amputated; Crockett is legally blind. After the story aired, Fenn stayed in Sutton and Crockett's lives, and the three formed a surprising, enduring bond. [more inside]
posted by Charity Garfein on Jul 9, 2013 - 26 comments

Eight Years and Counting

The Girls Who Haven’t Come Home (NYT) The last time they took Vernice Hill’s children away, the time they didn’t give them all back, was the afternoon she went to see her neighbor. Ms. Hill lives in a hulking building on East 188th Street, in a frayed neighborhood in the Bronx. It was May 1, 2005. [more inside]
posted by ThePinkSuperhero on Jul 8, 2013 - 28 comments

Hunger is hidden

A 5-year-old girl saw the dust trail of the bus and pedaled toward it on a red tricycle. Three teenage boys came barefoot in swimsuits. A young mother walked over from her trailer with an infant daughter in one arm and a lit cigarette in the other. “Any chance there will be leftover food for adults?” she asked. It was almost 1 p.m. For some, this would be the first meal of the day. For others, the last.

In rural Tennessee, a new way to help hungry children: A bus turned bread truck
Don't look at the comments. Do look at the photos.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Jul 7, 2013 - 114 comments

If another nation was doing this to our children, we'd be at war.

"The story of American families facing food insecurity is as frustrating as it is heartbreaking, because the truth is as avoidable as it is tragic. Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us — one in six Americans — go hungry. More than a third of them are children. And yet Congress can’t pass a Farm Bill because our representatives continue to fight over how many billions to slash from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The debate is filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers." Bill Moyers spends an hour with two of the creators of the documentary "A Place at the Table." [more inside]
posted by jbickers on Jul 3, 2013 - 76 comments

Disclaimer: The opinions on this page are the property of the writers

Can Silicon Valley Save the World?
posted by infini on Jul 1, 2013 - 43 comments

Pacifying the Favelas: Preparing for International Attention

Brazilian favelas have a long and sordid history, initially constructed as a shanty town by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Then the poor people from rural areas moved to the cities for job opportunities, expanding the favelas. Today, there are over 500 favelas, with about a third of Rio de Janeiro's population, and they're growing. The three primary drug gangs that fight for control in the favelas formed in the 1970s (PDF), but they were formed not solely by fighters, but also political radicals, and these gangs provide some social services where the government does not. That is, until the Pacifying Police Units were formed in 2008, with the goal of pushing the gangs out and providing government stability from a live-in police force. But this isn't just to an effort to end the gang violence -- the slums are being swept ahead of the tourist rush, and the shanty towns are now seeing a rapid gentrification from non-Brazilians and speculators.
posted by filthy light thief on Jun 6, 2013 - 15 comments

Britain's poorest city: The struggle to make ends meet

"Recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics suggest residents of this city have the lowest household disposable income of anywhere in the UK. The average income per individual householder after tax, but including benefits, is £16,034 a year. In Nottingham it is £10,834. That may be only one measure of poverty, but at a time when there has been a sustained assault on living standards for everyone it is surely a difficult extreme. " [via BBC]
posted by marienbad on May 31, 2013 - 15 comments

The poverty of suburban America

During the decade 2000-10 in the USA, for the first time the number of poor people in major metropolitan suburbs surpassed the number in cities. Between 2000 and 2011, the poor population in suburbs grew by 64% — more than twice the rate of growth in cities (29%). By 2011, almost 16.4 million residents in suburbia lived below the poverty line, outstripping the poor population in cities by almost 3 million people. These are some of the grim findings of ‘Confronting Suburban Poverty in America’, a report by the Brookings Institution, and the implications of this report and its contents are that much more significant for Brookings is conservative in its outlook and advocacy. via
posted by infini on May 29, 2013 - 58 comments

How Social Mobility Got Stuck

"Britain's poor were absolutely and relatively better off until Thatcher was elected in 1979. Since then, the bottom half of society is worse off than it was in 1983." "In 1945, when Thatcher turned 20, the richest 0.01 per cent people in Britain received 123 times the mean national average income. By the time she turned 40 in 1965 that had halved to 62 times, and the year before she came to power, in 1978, it was at its minimum: just 28 times the average income."
posted by marienbad on May 28, 2013 - 107 comments

A002B19B 0003 A002B19D 0023

A recollection of hacking the N64 with Action Replay and posting about it on Codejunkies with a Dreamcast.
posted by michaelh on May 18, 2013 - 9 comments

How microfinance companies take advantage of the poor

What's the point of teaching a man to fish, if someone else owns the river? Berkeley professor Ananya Roy narrates a hand-drawn video about who is profiting from poverty.
posted by spamandkimchi on May 16, 2013 - 40 comments

Crosswalks are less common in poor neighborhoods.

In 2011, Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of her four-year-old son, A.J., because he was hit by a car and killed while he, his mother, and his siblings crossed the street without using a crosswalk. Nelson and her three children were crossing the street to get from a bus stop to their apartment complex. In order to use a crosswalk, she would have had to walk a third of a mile in each direction. Streets with marked crosswalks are significantly more common in high income areas than in middle income or low income communities. (.pdf) A 2012 New Jersey study found that poor pedestrians are more likely to be struck by cars. [more inside]
posted by southern_sky on May 15, 2013 - 136 comments

To eat, or not to eat and maybe pay the gas bill instead

Which? poll says many 'borrowing money for food' - "One in five UK households borrowed money or used savings to cover food costs in April, a Which? survey says. It suggests the equivalent of five million households used credit cards, overdrafts or savings to buy food." [BBC]
posted by marienbad on May 5, 2013 - 11 comments

The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment

The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, an outgrowth of Oregon's 2008 lottery to allocate Medicaid slots to eligible residents, has released their second year of results (Previous discussions on the lottery and the experiment). The gist of the results are that they found statisitically significant reductions in catastrophic health care expenditures, improvements in the incidences of depression, and increased use of health care services. They found minimal (and not statistically significant) improvements in the rates of physical health indicators (diabetes and hypertension) they tracked. Because of ethical concerns, there are no other randomized controlled tests on this scale that study the effects of Medicaid and few on the effects of health insurance in general (the only significant one being a RAND study released 30 years ago). Because of the small amount of information available on the topic and the impending Medicaid expansion offered by Affordable Care Act, this study has drawn a lot of attention from political commentators. This will presumably be the last year these results will be published, as the state of Oregon was able to find extra money in 2010 in order cover the rest of its Medicaid-eligible population. [more inside]
posted by Weebot on May 3, 2013 - 20 comments

BBC: How to Eat Healthily on £1 a day

"Starting on Monday 29 April, 5,000 Britons will be challenging themselves to live on just £1 a day for five days, as part of a campaign by the Global Poverty Project. But is it possible not just to survive, but also to eat a balanced and healthy diet on that sort of budget?" [more inside]
posted by marienbad on Apr 30, 2013 - 78 comments

Material Poverty & Privilege in India

What would a poverty map of India look like?
posted by Gyan on Apr 14, 2013 - 10 comments

£53 a week? Of course we all could! - True grit in politics.

On Monday, the British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, made a rather rash claim on BBC Radio 4. Hijinks ensue. 'Duncan Smith came under pressure after he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that he could live on £53 ($81/week) after he was asked about a market trader, David Bennett, who claimed that he had to live on that amount after his housing benefit was cut. "If I had to, I would," Duncan Smith replied." ' from The Guardian. Since then a petition has started challenging him to try it. Petition has gathered 440,133 signatures in 5 days. Original report. There is a secondary petition going: this one is guaranteed to be debated in Parliament if it gets 100,000 signatures. [more inside]
posted by glasseyes on Apr 5, 2013 - 57 comments

“Happy shopping! Enjoy the 1st.”

The food stamp economy of Woonsocket, RI, profiled in The Washington Post.
posted by downing street memo on Mar 17, 2013 - 55 comments

The Balinghou

Generation Gap: "The parents of China’s post-1980 generation [the bā líng hòu (八零後)] (themselves born between 1950 and 1965) grew up in a rural, Maoist world utterly different from that of their children. In their adolescence, there was one phone per village, the universities were closed and jobs were assigned from above. If you imagine the disorientation and confusion of many parents in the West when it comes to the internet and its role in their children’s lives, and then add to that dating, university life and career choices, you come close to the generational dilemma. Parents who spent their own early twenties labouring on remote farms have to deal with children who measure their world in malls, iPhones and casual dates." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 7, 2013 - 16 comments

“New Orleans is easy pickings,”

Everyone Hates The Oogles: Exploring The Animosity Towards New Orleans' Panhandling Punks [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 27, 2013 - 75 comments

class and privilege in science

Lack of resources, benign discouragement from well meaning adults, active exclusion by powerful gatekeepers: a classroom scientist discusses things that kill opportunity for inner city youth. [more inside]
posted by el io on Jan 25, 2013 - 24 comments

Babes of Wrath

Homelessness activist Diane Nilan and progressive activist and former Green Party candidate Pat LaMarche are embarking on a tour around the southwestern US to call attention to homeless children and youth in crisis. [more inside]
posted by eviemath on Jan 20, 2013 - 10 comments

Bed, shelter, home, refuge.

The journey with no destination.
"We board in northwest London on a regular bus, with the intention of heading into the heart of the capital, where there is a much greater choice of night buses when it gets later and colder. By now the group seem to have fully accepted my presence and are keen to tell me about their lives. The most pressing question I have is: why? Why would you eschew safety and warmth and comfort for this? It turns out that while a couple of kids might be along for the ride, for most this is their only option.

A boy with huge brown eyes, who is so small he barely looks older than 12, tells me: “I’m allowed home in early mornings to have some food and change my clothes, but I have to be gone by the time my mum wakes up.” When I ask him why, he shrugs, as if the answer is forgotten or irrelevant."

posted by fight or flight on Jan 17, 2013 - 34 comments

Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks

See how much money people make in every neighborhood in every city in America with Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks, a map that displays wealth distributions across US cities (and states).
posted by EvaDestruction on Jan 4, 2013 - 59 comments

Poverty in the UK during the 1930s

"Yet when I went before the Public Assistance Committee [to plead for more benefit] they asked me if the baby was being breast-fed and when I said yes, they reduced the allowance for a child.' [Daily Mail - Although not their usual fare].
posted by marienbad on Dec 25, 2012 - 12 comments

"You're Kurt"

"Somebody whispered to me, 'That's Nirvana. You're Kurt.'" For the (scalper's delight) 12-12-12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy (and anti-poverty programs), Paul McCartney will front a reunited Nirvana.
posted by mrgrimm on Dec 12, 2012 - 386 comments

“This town is dragging everyone down,” Tabi said a few days later.

With a bloody knife in her hand and a circular saw whining behind her, labor laws being violated by the minute, Tabi decided on the spot that work offered freedom. She went back the next two winters, through 10th grade. Off-season, she cleaned rental properties, clerked in a mini-mart and baled hay at a farm. In a rural Rust Belt town, seventeen-year-old Tabi Rouzzo plans her escape.
posted by Snarl Furillo on Dec 10, 2012 - 72 comments

Jack Whittaker's Powerball tragedy.

The day would come when many West Virginians recalled the story of Jack's Powerball Christmas with a shudder at the magnitude of ruination: families asunder, precious lambs six feet under, folks undone by the lure of all that easy money.
posted by Egg Shen on Nov 29, 2012 - 68 comments

Young Child Risk Calculator

From The National Center For Children in Poverty: Young Child Risk Calculator: "The risk factors used in this tool are known to increase the chance of poor health, school, and developmental outcomes for young children. Economic hardship paired with any of the listed risk factors may indicate a greater chance of poor outcomes. Children with three or more risks are exceptionally vulnerable. Information about the prevalence of young children experiencing these risks can inform policies aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable children and reducing the number of children experiencing early risks." [more inside]
posted by OmieWise on Nov 27, 2012 - 6 comments

Prime Time for Socialism

The US does not have a spending problem, we have a distribution problem "Forty years from now, America will be twice as rich on average as we are today. But most of that wealth will go to the very richest households. We only have a budget crisis if they refuse to pay higher taxes... So the real point isn't that we can't afford Social Security and Medicare. It's that some people don't want to pay the higher taxes necessary to maintain Social Security and Medicare. This is a question of distribution, pure and simple."
posted by bookman117 on Nov 20, 2012 - 53 comments

RT @CoryBooker: "We have a shared responsibility that kids go to school nutritionally ready 2 learn"

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, will spend a week or longer living on food stamps, in response to a Twitter user who told him that, quote, "nutrition is not a responsibility of the government." [more inside]
posted by Rory Marinich on Nov 20, 2012 - 117 comments

They deserve better

The poor in America: In need of help Some 15% of Americans (around 46.2m people) live below the poverty line, as Ms Hamilton does. You have to go back to the early 1960s—before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programmes—to find a significantly higher rate. Many more, like Ms Dunham, have incomes above the poverty line but nevertheless cannot meet their families’ basic monthly needs, and there are signs that their number is growing. Once upon a time the fates of these people weighed heavily on American politicians. Ronald Reagan boasted about helping the poor by freeing them from having to pay federal income tax. Jack Kemp, Bob Dole’s running-mate in 1996, sought to spearhead a “new war on poverty.” George W. Bush called “deep, persistent poverty…unworthy of our nation’s promise”. No longer. Budgets are tight and the safety net is expensive. Mitt Romney famously said he was not “concerned about the very poor” because they have a safety net to take care of them. Mr Obama’s second-term plan mentioned poverty once, and on the trail he spoke gingerly of “those aspiring to the middle class”. “Poor” is a four-letter word.
posted by infini on Nov 8, 2012 - 23 comments

"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."

In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 25, 2012 - 32 comments

Annotated Filmography of Charlie Chaplin

Director and/or star of many of the greatest films ever made including The Great Dictator (2:05:16) [Globe scene and the eternally goosebump providing Final speech], The Immigrant (20:01), The Gold Rush (1:11:49), City Lights (1:22:40), Modern Times (1:27:01), and Monsieur Verdoux (1:59:03), Charlie Chaplin's movies have entered the public domain in most countries. Below the fold is an annotated list of all 82 of his official short and feature films in chronological order, as well as several more, with links to where you can watch them; it's not like you had work to do right? [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Sep 17, 2012 - 35 comments

Is poverty a kind of robbery?

Is poverty a kind of robbery?
posted by deathpanels on Sep 16, 2012 - 138 comments

Obama/Romney respond regarding poverty.

There's been little discussion about the problem of poverty in the current Presidential election, the conventions pretty much ignored it. "The Circle of Protection, composed of Christian leaders from across the religious spectrum, released President Barack Obama's and GOP nominee Mitt Romney's video responses today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C." Both candidates responded.
posted by HuronBob on Sep 13, 2012 - 52 comments

Chicago's Murder Problem

With six homicides, Saturday August 18th tied with an unseasonably warm February day for the dubious honor of Chicago's deadliest day, bringing the year's death total to over 340. Chicago is now one of the world's deadliest cities, much worse than the more populous NYC, even earning comparisons to Kabul. Possible culprits include failed urban policies, guns, concentrated poverty, and gangs (and counterintuitively, the fact that some are fractured and poorly run).
posted by melissam on Aug 21, 2012 - 39 comments

Paul Ryan as Romney's running-mate

Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 11, 2012 - 1550 comments

Jobs not Jails

"We don’t hire homies to bake bread. We bake bread to hire homies"--Father Gregory Boyle, Jesuit Priest and founder of Homeboy Industries. [more inside]
posted by apricot on Jul 16, 2012 - 23 comments

“Americans don’t look at us as human beings. They look at us as tools for work.”

Journalist Chris Hedges and Illustrator Joe Sacco have co-authored Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt about life in the ‘sacrifice zones’ in the American Dream.
Camden, New Jersey where:
The poor have to help the poor, because the ones who make the money are helping the people with money.
And from West Virginia: The Story of Rudy the Miner, with text.
An interview with Hedges.
(Mountain coal rape previously 1; 2).
posted by adamvasco on Jul 12, 2012 - 31 comments

Rapid declines into poverty

The Sharp, Sudden Decline of America's Middle Class (via The Billfold) [more inside]
posted by peacheater on Jun 27, 2012 - 83 comments

As a weapon in the hands of the restless poor.

After an inquisitive prison inmate challenged his notions of poverty and its solutions, Earl Shorris embarked on a project to share the humanities with poor students in New York City. In this article for Harper's Magazine, he remembers his struggles and triumphs with funding, material, and the students. As income inequality in the US continues to rise, other well known figures have different ideas. Shorris died recently this year, and obituaries appeared in The New York Times, The Daily News and The Nation. A full archive of his articles for Harper's can be found here.
posted by sophist on Jun 21, 2012 - 10 comments

'A childhood that began with a sort of cautious optimism quickly devolved into absolute horse shit.'

My mother became my daughter when I was nine years old. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jun 20, 2012 - 62 comments

The elephant moves

“Sexual orientation does make you poor,” says Manohar Elavarthi, a community organizer with Sangama in Bangalore. “Poverty is not just economic – you miss access to so many things: ration cards, inheritance rights, voter ID cards.” In several South Asian countries, there are reports that LGBT people have even been denied access to disaster relief. And homophobia is intricately connected with other divisions in South Asian societies, particularly around gender but also religion and caste. Yet I saw many signs of hope and change in both India and Nepal. Those transgender sex workers in Chennai have organized a coalition, called V-CAN, of every single community-based organization in the state of Tamil Nadu that serves homosexual or transgender people. Working with the NGO Praxis, they have been able to gain access to some public benefits, such as pensions and registering as “third gender” on government ID cards. Activists in Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society have achieved similar results and more. ~ World Bank blog post
posted by infini on Jun 3, 2012 - 9 comments

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