Article suggests that we need to reassess our assumptions about the relationship between poverty and race. Following the article published in Forbes magazine dealing with poor black kids, this article brings up the question about poor whites and how invisible they have become.
A three-part series on the fate of 59 fifth-graders who were given an extraordinary gift: the promise of a college education paid for by two wealthy businessmen. Part 2, Part 3
Why are Indian Reservations So Poor? Forbes writer John Koppisch says it's because of a lack of individual property rights. In a detailed response, the executive director of non-profit organization Village Earth says: "I find it ironic how academics and journalists try to come up with new theories to explain poverty on reservations but fail to take into account the obvious. The government owes Native Americans at least 45 Billion dollars yet, in the settlement offered by the Obama administration, they are being compensated for less that .06% of that." [more inside]
"If I Were A Poor Black Kid" by Gene Marks. "If I Were The Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks" by Kelly Virella
"Imagine if you had never been homeless before and you'd just lost your job and you lost your home. What would you do? Would you immediately go begging or knocking on a door? No, you would downsize, move into cheaper accommodations, if that did not work you'd move in with friends or relatives and then you'd move into a cheap motel and then ... where would you want to go before winding up at a shelter door? You would much prefer to live at a park with your family and your dog." ... "In just about every major city, there are tent cities. Unfortunately, we're in a growth industry and the numbers are going to continue." -- Michael Stoop, a community organizer for the National Coalition for the Homeless, explaining that the surge in American tent city shantytowns, first highlighted on MeFi in 2008/09: 1, 2, 3, has not slowed. The Great Recession: Life in Tent City, Lakewood NJ / Photo Gallery / Video. [more inside]
About one tenth of China's farmland is polluted with heavy metals, with whole villages being poisoned. All too frequently, local governments have reacted by ignoring the problems and even denying treatment (HRW report).
Vancouver aims to "end homelessness by 2015". Officials have been working over the years to reduce the city’s homelessness, and in July passed an ambitious plan that targets eliminating street homelessness by 2015 and creating nearly 40,000 new units of social, rental, and condo housing by 2021. The plan is aimed at building multiple types of housing to address shortages, but the first three years focus mainly on supportive and social housing. It calls for 3,650 units of such housing, 1,700 of which are already funded and in either the planning or construction phase. According to city councilor Kerry Jang, the need for this type of supportive housing has skyrocketed in recent years.
The Millennium Villages, launched in association with the Millennium Development Goals (wiki) adopted by the UN in 2000, recently received a grant of $72 million to continue its work. In a post on the always interesting Guardian Poverty Matters blog, a group of poverty researchers has recently summarized their findings that the project did not plan for a rigorous evaluation, and thus we will not know if they worked. Jeff Sachs, the scholar most strongly associated with the MDVs, disagrees. The blog Development Impact (which, in fairness, is basically all about randomized controlled trials in development) weighs in here and here.
David Simon, creator of The Wire, delivers the 2011 Frank Porter Graham Lecture at UNC-Chapel Hill. [more inside]
SCC approves safe injection sites. The Supreme Court of Canada today ordered the federal government to stop its efforts to shut down a safe injection clinic in Vancouver, opening the door to more clinics opening across the country. [more inside]
"Internet Essentials" is a $10/month internet plan available to any family with one child eligible for free lunches at American public schools. [more inside]
U.S. Poverty Rate, 1 in 6, at Highest Level in Years (NYT) - An additional 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, census officials said, making 46.2 million people in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch. That represented 15.1 percent of the country. The poverty line in 2010 was at $22,113 for a family of four. (related)
Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? "The very act of making decisions depletes our ability to make them well. So how do we navigate a world of endless choice?"
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the the 2001 bestseller "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America", releases a new afterward for the tenth anniversary edition of the book, focusing on what has changed in the last 10 years. The conclusion: Poverty has since turned into an American crime. [more inside]
On the trail of George Orwell’s outcasts. 'Some 80 years after George Orwell chronicled the lives of the hard-up and destitute in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, what has changed?' [more inside]
MIT students created water bottle light bulbs that diffract natural sunlight and provide the equivalent of a 55 watt light bulb out of an empty plastic bottle, water, and a few drops of bleach. They are being installed and used in shanty towns where no natural light gets into the makeshift tin roof homes.
Everyone knows that correlation doesn't imply causation, but researchers invariably need to come up with plausible explanations (i.e., models) for the patterns found in their data. However, very different models can "explain" the same pattern. The books The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It and Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places by Oxford economist Paul Collier try to explain why some countries have remained poor using data from econometric studies. In his very interesting review (PDF), Mike McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale, critiques the types of explanations found in popular economics books. Statistician Andrew Gelman has further thoughts on descriptive statistics, causal inference, and story time.
The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment: Evidence from the First Year (or, What Happens When You Give Poor People Health Insurance?) "We find that in this first year, the treatment group had substantively and statistically significantly higher health care utilization (including primary and preventive care as well as hospitalizations), lower out-of-pocket medical expenditures and medical debt (including fewer bills sent to collection), and better self-reported physical and mental health than the control group." [more inside]
The World Top Incomes Database (click on "Graphics" and select countries, years and other variables) (via)
Psychologists are now theorizing that humans have a depletable reservoir of self-control, and that this is why poor people remain poor.
Street interviews with Buffalo's freelance bottle collectors – the people who wander through the city to recycle our empties. [more inside]
In 2009, Ctrl.Alt.Shift, the "youth initiative of Christian Aid," held a national competition in the UK for aspiring filmmakers aged 18 to 25. Their mission: create a short film treatment based around three key issues: "War + Peace," "Gender + Power" and "HIV + Stigma." The results were then screened to an audience at the 2009 Raindance Film Festival. The films: 1000 Voices, HIV: The Musical, Man Made, No Way Through and War School. (All YouTube links. Vimeo links and descriptions of each film are inside this post.) These films deal with adult subject matter and may be disturbing for some viewers. Some may also be nsfw. [more inside]
One percent of Americans now "earn" 25% of the income. Many of them have grown their wealth through criminal exploitation. Roger Ebert asks the burning question: why aren't more people outraged?
Down and out in Toronto and New York: Freelance film critic Steven Boone recounts his experiences with the soup kitchens of Toronto and New York in First rate, second rate: In and out of the soup kitchens of Toronto and New York
Every year, nine million children under five die from preventable diseases such as diarrhea and malaria. Often, the treatments for these diseases are cheap, safe, and readily available. So why don't people pick these 'low-hanging fruit'? Why don’t mothers vaccinate their children? Why don’t families use bednets, or buy chlorinated water? And why do they spend such large amounts of money on ineffective cure instead?Poor Economics is a book and website by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. It has maps, graphs, and data drawn from the research at MIT's Poverty Action Lab. It is currently being reviewed and discussed (1, 2, 3) at the Economist. BONUS: Duflo discusses the book and Randomized Controlled Trials (Wikipedia: RCT).
9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know About Taxes - "4. Many of the very richest pay no current income taxes at all: Paulson made himself $9 billion in fees in just two years. His current tax bill on that $9 billion? Zero... 9. Other countries do it better: no one in Germany or the rest of the modern world goes broke because of accident or illness" (via) [more inside]
"Customers wanting a RAL paid Jackson Hewitt a $24 application fee, a $25 processing fee, and a $2 electronic-filing fee, plus 4 percent of the loan amount. On a $2,000 refund, that meant $131 in charges—equivalent to an annual interest rate of about 170 percent—not to mention the few hundred bucks you might spend for tax preparation."
Why Not a Negative Income Tax? "What kind of program could help protect every citizen from destitution without granting excessive power to bureaucrats, creating disincentives to work, and clogging up the free-market economy, as the modern welfare state has done? [Nobel-prize winning economist Milton] Friedman’s answer was the negative income tax, or NIT."
AP photographer Kevin Frayer moved to New Delhi in 2009. Here he captures a community of coal scavengers who live and collect coal illegally for a few dollars a day in the village of Bokapahari, India
SPENT is a flash game (or an immersive online experience depending on who you ask) that challenges players to survive poverty and see first-hand that homelessness is just a shortfall away. Created in partnership with Urban Ministries of Durham and containing scenarios commonly faced (pdf) by the working poor, it may not tell people anything they don't already know, but is a creative use of gaming and social media to raise awareness and bring in donors.
Foster Care: Extreme Edition Pioneered by a 23-person St. Louis — based agency called the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, Extreme Recruitment seeks out the foster children who are the hardest to find homes for. Via the You Gotta Believe! Adopting Teens and Tweens radio forum.
In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism - We venture to the very heart of the hell that is Scandinavian socialism—and find out that it's not so bad. Pricey, yes, but a good place to start and run a company. What exactly does that suggest about the link between taxes and entrepreneurship?
Indeed, the comeback of the culture of poverty, albeit in new rhetorical guise, signifies a reversion to the status quo ante: to the discourses and concomitant policy agenda that existed before the black protest movement forced the nation to confront its collective guilt and responsibility for two centuries of slavery and a century of Jim Crow—racism that pervaded all major institutions of our society, North and South. Such momentous issues are brushed away as a new generation of sociologists delves into deliberately myopic examinations of a small sphere where culture makes some measurable difference—to prove that “culture matters.”Stephen Steinberg on culture and poverty
For all the faults of the poorhouse, the system it replaced was perceived to be even worse. In post-Revolution America, if you were poor, you could be "farmed out" at public auction to the lowest bidder. [more inside]
"In many places the concentration [of convicted residents] is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks."
Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.See the several linked pdfs.
Giving What We Can is a movement founded by Toby Ord , a 31 year old Oxford academic on slightly more than average income who plans to give away a million pounds during his lifetime. [more inside]
As the UK coalition government plans swingeing cuts and students take to the streets to protest, one mother asks us to remember the 'Nouveau Pauvre'. Some commentators react unfavourably to her impending 'austerity Christmas'. [more inside]
Just Give Money to the Poor: bypass governments and NGOs and let the poor decide how to use their money? Should recipients be asked to satisfy conditions? Does it only work well in rural areas of developing countries? Found via this socialist rag; mentioned here first by this puny human.
A Portrait of Hunger. A look at poverty and hunger in Philadelphia.
A former magazine writer in his late fifties moves to San Diego and lives on very little money indeed. In the October 1977 issue of The Atlantic, he describes the stratagems behind his thriftiness. [more inside]
"And if you really think about it, the only reason somebody gets out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it, and they've been waiting for it. Otherwise, we are open 24 hours -- come at 5 a.m., come at 7 a.m., come at 10 a.m. But if you are there at midnight, you are there for a reason."
An ABC Investigative Unit team hit the streets of western Sydney, where young people are struggling to break a vicious cycle of unemployment and family breakdown, to find out what's being done to stop them from falling through the cracks. In a great article by ABC reporters Eleanor Bell and Ed Giles, they found that the lack of resources, infrastructure and support for families in these communities is getting worse, not better but that despite this, many locals are still proud of their community.
Anyone who wishes to understand American society must be aware that explanations focusing on the cultural traits of inner-city residents are likely to draw far more attention from policy makers and the general public than structural explanations will. It is an unavoidable fact that Americans tend to de-emphasize the structural origins and social significance of poverty and welfare ... If, in America, you can grow up to be anything you want to be, then any destiny—even poverty—can be viewed through the lens of personal achievement or failure. William Julius Wilson on the political and academic failure to recognize structural causes of inner-city poverty. Wilson interviewed in conjunction with the article. [more inside]
"[Bank robber Peter Barry] Lawrence, 71, made his getaway in his wheelchair, with $2,000 in cash on his lap... he took a meandering route down Seventh Avenue until the police caught up with him five minutes later. But that was all part of the plan." And an embedded reporter in Afghanistan notes that "many young soldiers told me that they actually live better in the army, even when deployed, than they did in civilian life, where they couldn't make ends meet, especially when they were trying to pay for college or raise a family by working one or two low-wage jobs" (p. 1). Meanwhile, "parents of means are now resorting to buying franchise businesses to keep their adult children employed." Economic life in contemporary America.
Bruce Nussbaum kicked off a minor hubbub in designa circles this week with his provocative article "Is Humanitarian Design the new Imperialism?" which led to this response by Frogdesign's Robert Fabricant "In Defense of Design Imperialism" and WorldChanging's Alex Steffen's "The Problem with Design: Imperialism or thinking too small?" and finally a whole slew of blog posts, opinions and commentary artfully collated here by the editors of Design Observer. But the question still remains unanswered...
Hans Rosling, who helped usher in TED talks way back when using stunning visuals, envisions how the world will look in 50 years as global population grows to 9 billion. To check further population growth, which might have disastrous consequences, he exhorts us to raise the living standards of the poorest. [more inside]