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12 years ago Fluid poverty By BRADLEY R. SCHILLER First published: Sunday, September 24, 2006 The recently released poverty data paint a grim picture of life in America. Once again the U.S. Census Bureau tells us that 37 million people -- one of every 12 residents -- is living hand-to-mouth in the United States. This is a shocking statistic, especially in view of our extraordinarily high average incomes (around $60,000 per household), three years of robust economic growth, declining unemployment rates and a dramatic drop in welfare rolls. Critics of the Bush administration, of course, are quick to interpret this picture. They point to "tax cuts for the rich," punitive welfare reforms, a stagnant federal minimum wage, cutbacks in education and increasingly cutthroat international trade as explanations for both persistent poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor Americans. But whatever merit some of these explanations might have, they are not focused on the right subject. The most important picture that emerges from census data is not the size of the poverty population but its transitory nature. The number of people living in poverty has been in a narrow range of 32 million to 37 million for the past 25 years. The 1991 recession briefly pushed the number of poor people up to 39 million; the 1995-99 economic boom shrank it to 31.6 million. The year-to-year changes have been about a million people, up or down. Although the size of the poverty population has been fairly stable, its composition has not been. The people who were poor in 1981 aren't poor now. The 4 million poor people who were older than 65 back then are mostly dead now. The millions of household heads who were unemployed then are probably retired from their jobs. And all those welfare kids being raised by single moms in 1981 are now grown up. So who took their place in the poverty ranks? We've got a constant flow of immigrants, for starters. Well more than a million immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- enter the country every year. Most come in at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, working for the minimum wage or less. The poverty rates among immigrants are twice as high as non-immigrants. Then we've got 5 million or so low-achieving kids dropping out of high school every year. And more than a million births a year to single moms, about a third of whom are teenagers. On top of that, add more than a million divorces a year that often devastate finances. Then there are the persistent scourges of death, disability and illness -- all of which throw families into poverty, often without warning. Finally, there's the economy itself, in which constantly shifting demands, costs and technology create a continuous profusion of winners and losers. So there's always a flow of new faces into the poverty ranks. The outflow is just as impressive. Unemployed workers don't stay unemployed. They do find work and exit the poverty population. Likewise, minimum-wage workers don't keep working for minimum wage. As they gain skills and experience, they command higher wages. Within three years of joining the labor market, 85 percent of minimum-wage entrants (primarily teenagers and immigrants) earn significantly more than the federal minimum. Immigrants assimilate and move out of poverty as quickly today as in past generations. Most of the single moms will marry (again), gaining the greater economic stability of a two-parent family. Others, perhaps prodded by welfare reforms, will gain employment, particularly once their children start attending school. Inflation-adjusted Social Security and disability benefits will lift millions of older and disabled workers out of poverty. The reality of our poverty population is constant churn. Some people fall into poverty every year, and just about as many escape its clutches. The popular notion of a "poverty trap" is greatly exaggerated. The flows in and out of poverty are far more impressive than the relatively small subgroup of individuals who stay in poverty for many years. Researchers have observed that three out of five families that fall into poverty in any one year are out of poverty the following year -- making poverty a highly transient state. Even more impressive statistics were collected over a longer period. A University of Michigan study discovered that one out of three U.S. households experienced poverty in at least one year of a 13-year stretch. But only one out of 20 families was poor in at least 10 years, and only one out of 60 stayed poor in all 13 years. Hence, the permanent poverty rate is less than 2 percent, even though the annual poverty rate is closer to 13 percent. The evident churning in the poverty population doesn't diminish its social importance. But it should change the way we look at poverty statistics and the policy choices we make. We don't have a permanent poverty caste in the United States. Instead we have a very fluid combination of demographic, social and economic forces that propel people in and out of poverty. Policy choices should focus on reducing institutional barriers that slow the poverty outflow and expanding (temporary) safety nets (e.g., unemployment benefits, child support) that reduce the poverty inflow. Bradley R. Schiller teaches at American University and is author of "The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination." He wrote this article for The Washington Post. *fair use* Harmony- I don't necessarily agree with this guy
37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty
12 years ago,,1712965,00.html 37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty Americans have always believed that hard work will bring rewards, but vast numbers now cannot meet their bills even with two or three jobs. More than one in 10 citizens live below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening Paul Harris in Kentucky Sunday February 19, 2006 The Observer The flickering television in Candy Lumpkins's trailer blared out The Bold and the Beautiful. It was a fantasy daytime soap vision of American life with little relevance to the reality of this impoverished corner of Kentucky. The Lumpkins live at the definition of the back of beyond, in a hollow at the top of a valley at the end of a long and muddy dirt road. It is strewn with litter. Packs of stray dogs prowl around, barking at strangers. There is no telephone and since their pump broke two weeks ago Candy has collected water from nearby springs. Oblivious to it all, her five-year-old daughter Amy runs barefoot on a wooden porch frozen by a midwinter chill. It is a vision of deep and abiding poverty. Yet the Lumpkins are not alone in their plight. They are just the negative side of the American equation. America does have vast, wealthy suburbs, huge shopping malls and a busy middle class, but it also has vast numbers of poor, struggling to make it in a low-wage economy with minimal government help. A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown. Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. Amos Lumpkins has work and his children go to school. But the economy, stripped of worker benefits like healthcare, is having trouble providing good wages. Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck - a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage of $5.15 (£2.95) an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes. For a brief moment last year in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina brought America's poor into the spotlight. Poverty seemed on the government's agenda. That spotlight has now been turned off. 'I had hoped Katrina would have changed things more. It hasn't,' says Cynthia Duncan, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire. Oklahoma is in America's heartland. Tulsa looks like picture-book Middle America. Yet there is hunger here. When it comes to the most malnourished poor in America, Oklahoma is ahead of any other state. It should be impossible to go hungry here. But it is not. Just ask those gathered at a food handout last week. They are a cross section of society: black, white, young couples, pensioners and the middle-aged. A few are out of work or retired, everyone else has jobs. They are people like Freda Lee, 33, who has two jobs, as a marketer and a cashier. She has come to the nondescript Loaves and Fishes building - flanked ironically by a Burger King and a McDonald's - to collect food for herself and three sons. 'America is meant to be free. What's free?' she laughs. 'All we can do is pay off the basics.' Or they are people like Tammy Reinbold, 37. She works part-time and her husband works full-time. They have two children yet rely on the food handouts. 'The church is all we have to fall back on,' she says. She is right. When government help is being cut and wages are insufficient, churches often fill the gap. The needy gather to receive food boxes. They listen to a preacher for half an hour on the literal truth of the Bible. Then he asks them if they want to be born again. Three women put up their hands. But why are some Tulsans hungry? Many believe it is the changing face of the US economy. Tulsa has been devastated by job losses. Big-name firms like WorldCom, Williams Energy and CitGo have closed or moved, costing the city about 24,000 jobs. Now Wal-Mart embodies the new American job market: low wages, few benefits. Well-paid work only goes to the university-educated. Many others who just complete high school face a bleak future. In Texas more than a third of students entering public high schools now drop out. These people are entering the fragile world of the working poor, where each day is a mere step away from tragedy. Some of those tragedies in Tulsa end up in the care of Steve Whitaker, a pastor who runs a homeless mission in the shadow of a freeway overpass. Each day the homeless and the drug addicted gather here, looking for a bed for the night. Some also want a fresh chance. They are men like Mark Schloss whose disaster was being left by his first wife. The former Wal-Mart manager entered a world of drug addiction and alcoholism until he wound up with Whitaker. Now he is back on track, sporting a silver ring that says Faith, Hope, Love. 'Without this place I would be in prison or dead,' he says. But Whitaker equates saving lives with saving souls. Those entering the mission's rehabilitation programme are drilled in Bible studies and Christianity. At 6ft 5in and with a black belt in karate, Whitaker's Christianity is muscular both literally and figuratively. 'People need God in their lives,' he says. (MORE)
37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty, continued
12 years ago
These are mean streets. Tulsa is a city divided like the country. Inside a building run by Whitaker's staff in northern Tulsa a group of 'latch-key kids' are taking Bible classes after school while they wait for parents to pick them up. One of them is Taylor Finley, aged nine. Wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on the front, she dreams of travel. 'I want to have fun in a new place, a new country,' she says. Taylor wants to see the world outside Oklahoma. But at the moment she cannot even see her own neighbourhood. The centre in which she waits for mom was built without windows on its ground floor. It was the only way to keep out bullets from the gangs outside. During the 2004 election the only politician to address poverty directly was John Edwards, whose campaign theme was 'Two Americas'. He was derided by Republicans for doing down the country and - after John Kerry picked him as his Democratic running mate - the rhetoric softened in the heat of the campaign. But, in fact, Edwards was right. While 45.8 million Americans lack any health insurance, the top 20 per cent of earners take over half the national income. At the same time the bottom 20 per cent took home just 3.4 per cent. Whitaker put the figures into simple English. 'The poor have got poorer and the rich have got richer,' he said. Dealing with poverty is not a viable political issue in America. It jars with a cultural sense that the poor bring things upon themselves and that every American is born with the same chances in life. It also runs counter to the strong anti-government current in modern American politics. Yet the problem will not disappear. 'There is a real sense of impending crisis, but political leaders have little motivation to address this growing divide,' Cynthia Duncan says. There is little doubt which side of America's divide the hills of east Kentucky fall on. Driving through the wooded Appalachian valleys is a lesson in poverty. The mountains have never been rich. Times now are as tough as they have ever been. Trailer homes are the norm. Every so often a lofty mansion looms into view, a sign of prosperity linked to the coal mines or the logging firms that are the only industries in the region. Everyone else lives on the margins, grabbing work where they can. The biggest cash crop is illicitly grown marijuana. Save The Children works here. Though the charity is usually associated with earthquakes in Pakistan or famine in Africa, it runs an extensive programme in east Kentucky. It includes a novel scheme enlisting teams of 'foster grandparents' to tackle the shocking child illiteracy rates and thus eventually hit poverty itself. The problem is acute. At Jone's Fork school, a team of indomitable grannies arrive each day to read with the children. The scheme has two benefits: it helps the children struggle out of poverty and pays the pensioners a small wage. 'This has been a lifesaver for me and I feel as if the children would just fall through the cracks without us,' says Erma Owens. It has offered dramatic help to some. One group of children are doing so well in the scheme that their teacher, Loretta Shepherd, has postponed retirement in order to stand by them. 'It renewed me to have these kids,' she said. Certainly Renae Sturgill sees the changes in her children. She too lives in deep poverty. Though she attends college and her husband has a job, the Sturgill trailer sits amid a clutter of abandoned cars. Money is scarce. But now her kids are in the reading scheme and she has seen how they have changed. Especially eight-year-old Zach. He's hard to control at times, but he has come to love school. 'Zach likes reading now. I know it's going to be real important for him,' Renae says. Zach is shy and won't speak much about his achievements. But Genny Waddell, who co-ordinates family welfare at Jone's Fork, is immensely proud. 'Now Zach reads because he wants to. He really fought to get where he is,' she says. In America, to be poor is a stigma. In a country which celebrates individuality and the goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to make it big, those in poverty are often blamed for their own situation. Experience on the ground does little to bear that out. When people are working two jobs at a time and still failing to earn enough to feed their families, it seems impossible to call them lazy or selfish. There seems to be a failure in the system, not the poor themselves. It is an impression backed up by many of those mired in poverty in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Few asked for handouts. Many asked for decent wages. 'It is unfair. I am working all the time and so what have I done wrong?' says Freda Lee. But the economy does not seem to be allowing people to make a decent living. It condemns the poor to stay put, fighting against seemingly impossible odds or to pull up sticks and try somewhere else. In Tulsa, Tammy Reinbold and her family are moving to Texas as soon as they save the money for enough petrol. It could take several months. 'I've been in Tulsa 12 years and I just gotta try somewhere else,' she says. (MORE)
37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty, continued
12 years ago
From Tom Joad to Roseanne In a country that prides itself on a culture of rugged individualism, hard work and self-sufficiency, it is no surprise that poverty and the poor do not have a central place in America's cultural psyche. But in art, films and books American poverty has sometimes been portrayed with searing honesty. John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, which was made into a John Ford movie, is the most famous example. It was an unflinching account of the travails of a poor Oklahoma family forced to flee the Dust Bowl during the 1930s Depression. Its portrait of Tom Joad and his family's life on the road as they sought work was a nod to wider issues of social justice in America. Another ground-breaking work of that time was James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a non-fiction book about time spent among poor white farmers in the Deep South. It practically disappeared upon its first publication in 1940 but in the Sixties was hailed as a masterpiece. In mainstream American culture, poverty often lurks in the background. Or it is portrayed - as in Sergio Leone's crime epic Once Upon A Time In America - as the basis for a tale of rags to riches. One notable, yet often overlooked, exception was the great success of the sitcom Roseanne. The show depicted the realities of working-class Middle American life with a grit and humour that is a world away from the usual sitcom settings in a sunlit suburbia, most often in New York or California. The biggest sitcoms of the past decade - Friends, Frasier or Will and Grace - all deal with aspirational middle-class foibles that have little relevance to America's millions of working poor. An America divided · There are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. That figure has increased by five million since President George W. Bush came to power. · The United States has 269 billionaires, the highest number in the world. · Almost a quarter of all black Americans live below the poverty line; 22 per cent of Hispanics fall below it. But for whites the figure is just 8.6 per cent. · There are 46 million Americans without health insurance. · There are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone. · In 2004 the poorest community in America was Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Unemployment is over 80 per cent, 69 per cent of people live in poverty and male life expectancy is 57 years. In the Western hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number. · The richest town in America is Rancho Santa Fe in California. Average incomes are more than $100,000 a year; the average house price is $1.7m. *fair use*
How Poor Is Poor?
12 years ago How Poor Is Poor? WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2006(AP) Every year, the Census Bureau uses a 40-year-old formula to determine how many poor people there are in America, a method that many experts think was outdated years ago. The Census Bureau acknowledges the issue by also announcing alternative poverty rates based on different measurements of income and poverty. This approach has fueled an academic and political debate, but has yet to produce policy changes. In August, the bureau announced that 12.7 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2004, making it the official poverty rate. Last week, the bureau said the rate might be as high as 19.4 percent, or as low as 8.3 percent, depending on how income and basic living costs were defined. One outside analyst said he could cut the poverty rate in half using census data and a pocket calculator. But his exercise would change only the definition of poverty. It wouldn't make anyone richer. "I know virtually no one who thinks the current poverty line is an accurate measure of poverty," said Rebecca Blank, co-director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. Blank served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that recommended changes to the poverty measure 10 years ago. But the issue was too politically sensitive to resolve, she and others said. Some proponents of change want a higher poverty rate to encourage spending on the poor; others want a lower rate to make it easier to cut spending. "Everybody's got their favorite way of measuring it because the outcome fits their needs," said Martha Farnsworth Riche, who headed the Census Bureau under President Clinton. The Office of Management and Budget dictates how poverty is measured. But Congress has a keen interest in the issue because it affects so many programs, dollars and lives, Riche said. "The Census Bureau can't go around changing the poverty rate," Riche said. The official poverty level is used to decide eligibility for federal health, housing, nutrition and child care benefits. The official poverty rate helps shape national debate on the health of the country's economy. "There are hundreds of programs moving hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits that are tied to the poverty line," said Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute. Part of the problem is that the experts don't agree on how to define income and basic living expenses. The official poverty level is $19,307 for a family of four, $12,334 for a family of two. But the calculation includes only cash income before deductions for taxes. It excludes capital gains and it does not take into account accumulated wealth or assets, such as a home. It was based on a calculation of basic living expenses in the 1960s, and has been updated only to reflect inflation. The result is that a single parent making $13,000 a year is living above the poverty line, while someone with a $1 million house who takes a year off work to travel the world could be below it. The current system has defenders, but even many of those would like to see changes. John Cogan, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said the current system does a good job of gauging whether poverty increases or decreases from year to year. "Can the way we measure poverty be improved? Absolutely," Cogan said. "Does that mean we should just ignore the country's poverty statistics? Definitely not." Among the proposals to change the way the government measures poverty: # Add food stamps, health and housing benefits to incomes. The benefits were intended to decrease poverty, and they would if they were counted as income. # Subtract taxes, child care and medical costs from incomes, increasing the poverty rate for working Americans. # Count assets such as homes and securities when determining poverty levels, lowering the poverty rate for seniors on fixed incomes. # Create regional poverty lines to account for the fact that some places are more expensive to live than others. Chuck Nelson, an economist at the Census Bureau said, "We see ourselves as the research arm telling people what the effect would be if poverty were based on different measurements. If and when the time comes to change it, people will have information." ©MMVI, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. *fair use, as described on the front page of this group*
Please visit this page!! 9 charts/graphs not viewable in post
12 years ago Get the Facts The Overall Trend • Economic inequality in America has been growing since the late 1970s. Share of Total Income Received By Top 5% and Bottom 40% • The top one percent of Americans now make more money than the bottom 40 percent. That’s roughly three million people out-earning 110 million. • Twenty percent of the population owns 84% of our private assets, leaving the other 80 percent of the population with 15.6 percent of the assets. • In 1960, the wealth gap between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent of Americans was thirtyfold. Four decades later it’s more than seventy-five-fold. • Either way -- wealth or income – America is more unequal, economists generally agree, than at any time since the start of the Great Depression… • And more unequal than any other developed nation today. Declining Opportunity Great Leaps Upward: Percent Chance of Moving From Bottom to Top Income Quarter, 1960s and 1990s • Opportunity, or mobility – the likelihood of moving up the ladder – is a tricky thing to measure. But most experts agree that there is less of it than there was two or three decades ago. • And less of it in America than in a good many of what our parents and grandparents might have called the “class-ridden” societies of Europe. • A child with parents in the bottom-earning fifth of Americans now has roughly a 7 percent chance of reaching the top fifth as an adult; by contrast, a child with parents in the top fifth has a 42 percent chance of winding up there. Stalled Progress for Women and Minorities • Getting ahead has become a tougher proposition for disadvantaged groups as well as individuals. • Women, though they have come a long way, are still on the wrong end of a 25% wage gap. • The gulf between white and African-American incomes has hardly narrowed at all. In 1968 – the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination -- blacks earned, on average, 55¢ for every $1 of white income. By 2001, they were getting 57¢—a gain of 2¢. At that pace, parity could be achieved in another 581 years. • Wealth differences along racial and ethnic lines are even more striking. A 6-to-1 gap between whites and African-Americans. 11-to-1 between whites and Latinos. Median Net Worth by Race African-Americans - Latinos - Whites Inequality of Health • Our extreme and growing economic inequality has had profound effects on health, education, and the political process – areas where most Americans would like to think that money does not rule: The Uninsured by Race/Ethnicity - 2001 • The lower you fall on the income ladder, the more likely you are to be without health insurance or even a regular source of health care. Inequality of Education • Three quarters of the students at the most elite private colleges come from upper middle-class or wealthy families. Only five percent come from families with household incomes under $35,000. • Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, poor children of color – and regardless of color -- are routinely, and increasingly, assigned to schools filled with other poor children—a practice with a long, proven record of failure. • The college enrollment gap between low- and high-income Americans is widening, even as the economic value of a college degree continues to increase. Inequality of Political Representation • Voting in America is closely linked to economic status. Voter Turnout By Income - 2000 • The most important presidential primary is no longer New Hampshire or Iowa but the so-called wealth primary – the competition to see who can raise the most money from corporations and millionaires in the year before an election. With the exception of Howard Dean, wealth-primary winners have gone on to claim both major party nominations every time out since 1976. • Once in office, elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels build huge campaign warchests and manipulate election rules to keep potential opponents at bay. • 401 members of the House of Representatives sought reelection in 2004. Only five lost, two of them as a result of a notorious redistricting plan in Texas. • That works out to a reelection rate of close to 99 percent.
Child Hunger in a Land of Abundance Makes Us All Poor
12 years ago Published on Sunday, September 24, 2006 by Child Hunger in a Land of Abundance Makes Us All Poor by César Chelala While it is normal to expect high levels of hunger and poverty in a developing country, it may come as a surprise to observe a similar epidemic in one of the richest countries in the world. The Food Bank for New York City recently reported that nearly 20 percent of children in the city rely on free food to survive. According to statistics from Bread for the World, 13 million children went to bed hungry in the United States in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available. There's a debate about the real extent of U.S. hunger. The direst statistics, like those above, come (it is claimed) from advocacy groups. Others claim that "the poor here aren't really poor." Another claim is that the numbers are inflated or somehow "aren't that big," given the hugeness of the whole country. We are about to crest the 300 million mark in total population, and 13 million doesn't "sound so big" up against that. Divide 13 million by 50 states and you get about 65,000 hungry kids per state. That isn't so much - is it? Still others say that "the numbers are skewed by how bad the big cities are," as if somehow we shouldn't count the situation in, say, New York, when we look at the entire country's children. If you manhandle the numbers, you can make the problem sound smaller. While I wish to acknowledge the controversy, I'm really not at all persuaded by these cavils. In my travels around the world, I see a lot of poor children. And I would say that, ironically, hungry children in places like the Philippines or India may be less miserable than hungry children in the United States - simply because the horizons of expectation are so much lower for the Filipino or Indian children. If we have even 10 million truly hungry children in the United States, even five million, we have a crisis, and if they are the world's most miserable children - hungry while the computer age whirls about them, denied entry into that age of plenty - we have a treble crisis. Let's look closely at New York - that city we shouldn't include in our averages. The latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than one in four New York City children and adolescents younger than 18 live below the federal poverty level. And indeed, this figure is 50 percent higher than the national average. What makes this particularly worrisome is that between 2000 and 2005, the number of children living in poverty in New York City has increased by 5 percent, a trend that will probably continue. According to recent information from the Food Bank for New York City and City Harvest, published in "Growing Up Hungry in New York City: An Analysis of Hunger Among Children," hunger among children has reached critical levels. Almost a third (29 percent) of New Yorkers who receive emergency food aid are children. Hunger is one of the clearest expressions of poverty. A child is born into poverty every 17 minutes in New York City. Children who are chronically hungry suffer from malnutrition, which can have devastating effects on their physical and mental development. Malnutrition can result when children are undernourished, or overnourished with the wrong kind of foods, particularly those that are fried and high in fats. I'll admit that the District of Columbia is in some ways a worst case - and yet, the badness of the actual case can be surprising. The infant mortality rate in the District of Columbia, the nation's capital, is more than twice as high as in Beijing. In 2002 in the district, the number of babies who died before their first birthday was 11.5 per thousand live births versus 4.6 in Beijing. The United Nations Development Program reports that an African American baby in Washington has less chance of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban areas of the state of Kerala in India. The United States ranks 43d in the world in infant mortality levels. In the United States, it's often said that "it isn't race - it's class." Fine. But the fact is, hunger and race are strongly related: 41.9 percent of African American children and 40 percent of Latino children are chronically hungry, compared to 16.2 percent of white children - and that percentage of white children is terribly high! UNICEF has indicated that although the United States is still the wealthiest country in the world, with incomes higher than any other country's, it has also one of the highest incidences of child poverty among the rich, industrialized nations. Denmark and Finland have levels of less than 3 percent, closely followed by Norway and Sweden. All of those countries have high levels of social spending. Several factors contribute to poverty and hunger among children and their families in the United States. Among those factors are poor education; discriminatory practices against minorities and women; limited job opportunities; unstable family life; mental illness; and substance abuse. Perhaps the most important factors are unemployment and gender earning disparities. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has stated: "A person may have little means of commanding food if he or she has no job, no other sources of income, no social security. The hunger that will result can coexist with a plentiful supply of food in the economy and the markets." These are conditions that apply to the United States, where there are increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, who remain permanently marginalized and forgotten. (MORE)
Child Hunger in a Land of Abundance Makes Us All Poor
12 years ago
We can't totally eliminate poverty or its consequences. We can, however, lower the number of poor by acting on all of the factors that contribute to their poverty. No matter how rich a country is, if it doesn't fill the needs of its children it is, in fact, a poor country. César Chelala is an international public health consultant and author of Children's Health in the Americas, a publication of the Pan American Health Organization. Contact César Chelala at *fair use*
20% of the Children
12 years ago
That's a high percentage of children in one city to have to have free food to survive! These children & their parents need more opportunities, such as more nutritious food, jobs-for those who are old enough, and education. Whether these families, are white, black, oriental, latino, or any other ethnic group, race or religion, male or female, they need that chance-and deserve it too! paula
Hollywood sells clothes to end poverty and AIDS
12 years ago Hollywood sells clothes to end poverty and AIDS Carrie Fitzsimmons Issue date: 1/29/07 Section: Features Images flash across our television screens. We are bombarded with magazines each time we walk into the grocery store. Celebrity news is everywhere. From Justin and Cameron's breakup to Britney's fashion faux pas, it appears that celebrity gossip is not going anywhere soon. However, there is more to Hollywood than gossip and making movies these days. Several stars have dedicated their time, celebrity status and efforts to eradicating AIDS and hunger. Their efforts have even reached the fashion world. Designer Kenneth Cole and rock star Jon Bon Jovi recently introduced a line of jackets that "reflect both a sense of style and a sense of community," according to an advertisement for the clothing line. All profits from the jackets go to "HELP USA," an agency dedicated to help America's homeless. Not only does Kenneth Cole work with Bon Jovi on this project, but he has also introduced a few other items to benefit various charities. According to, "RSVP Kenneth Cole," a fragrance for men also benefits HELP USA and The Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation. Proceeds will aid as well in research for poverty and homelessness. The company doesn't limit itself to clothing. They also make accessories that many have been seen sporting. Until There's a Cure (UTAC) is a program that provides education to young Americans about the HIV/AIDS virus prevention. The bracelet that bears the same name is available online at A portion of the proceeds go to UTAC. According to, "Mother's Creations" bracelets are made by pregnant women and new mothers living with the HIV/AIDS virus. These bracelets are made for "economic empowerment" and AIDS education. Why does Kenneth Cole invest in lives and research for those less fortunate? The company started out as one of many shoe companies in New York trying to make a hit with models and actors. With limited funds, they took a few risks and made a big hit in the United States. To this day, the company still credits its beginnings as a "reminder to the importance of resourcefulness and innovated problem solving." Kenneth Cole has not only exceeded the idea of fashion, but has also reached out to the community. Several celebrities, like Cameron Diaz and Mena Suvari, have followed the pattern and enjoy being trendy while helping those less fortunate. If you want to be trendy and help people at the same time, check out You can still help others in some way even if your money is tight. It doesn't always take money to make a difference in someone else's life. *fair use*
12 years ago
US severe poverty highest in three decades
12 years ago US severe poverty highest in three decades By Naomi Spencer 5 March 2007 Extreme poverty in the US has reached its highest point in at least three decades, according to an analysis of Census Bureau figures by McClatchy Newspapers published February 22. The increase reflects the stark reality of declining living standards for the majority of the population in the so-called capitalist recovery of the past five years as well as during the period that preceded it. In 2005, individuals earning less than $5,080 a year were considered severely poor; a family of four with two children was severely poor if they lived on less than $9,903. The data review found that nearly 16 million Americans in 2005 were living in severe poverty, or below half the federally designated poverty threshold. This figure represents nearly half of the total poverty population, the highest proportion of the poverty population in dire straits since at least 1975. Between 2000 and 2005 alone, this group grew by 26 percent, even as the economy recovered from recession. According to Tony Pugh, the author of the report, this growth in severe poverty was 56 percent more than the growth of the poverty population overall, which also grew substantially over the period. In 2005, 12.6 percent of the population, or 37 million people, including 13 million children, lived below the official poverty line. The McClatchy report notes that about one in three severely poor people are under the age of 17, and that nearly two thirds of the poor population are female. Families headed by women bear a great deal of the deepest poverty in the US. Minority families are disproportionately impoverished. Census data suggests that low-income blacks are more than three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be severely poor. Poor Hispanics are more than twice as likely to suffer severe poverty. In 2005, 4.3 million of the severely poor were black, and 3.7 million were Hispanic. Many of the severely poor among minorities are older, having worked for decades in the now-collapsed manufacturing sector and developed job-related injuries and other health problems. The McClatchy report quoted congressional testimony from Community Service Society of New York City president David Jones, who remarked, “You have this whole cohort of, particularly, African-Americans of limited skills, men, who can’t participate in the workforce because they don’t have skills to do anything but heavy labor.” University of Wisconsin social welfare professor Mark Rank told the news agency that one in three Americans experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in life. Based on longitudinal research, Rank estimated that 58 percent of Americans between ages 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty. Two in three will use a public assistance program between the ages of 20 and 65, and 40 percent of Americans will rely on public assistance for at least five years. The poverty estimates do not include the undocumented immigrant population, which would certainly increase the rates. According to the McClatchy review of Census data, 65 of 215 large US counties saw statistically significant increases in severe poverty. The report also suggested that, rather than being concentrated in particular regions of the country, such as the Gulf Coast or collapsing manufacturing centers in the Midwest, “the rise in severely poor residents isn’t confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.” The US-Mexico border and the South registered the most extreme poverty. Here, 6.5 million are severely poor. Many worked in generally low-wage jobs in apparel, textile and furniture factories that are now closing down or relocating. Similarly, severe poverty has grown in the so-called rustbelt of the Midwest and Northeast in the wake of mass layoffs and plant closures. Washington, D.C., recorded a higher concentration of severe poverty than any of the 50 states, at 10.8 percent of the total 2005 population. This exceeded even Mississippi and Louisiana, whose populations were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In the nation’s capital, nearly 6 in 10 poor residents were severely impoverished. At the center of the richest country in the world, where trillions of dollars are appropriated for war, tax cuts and corporate handouts, the symbolism is unmistakable. While damning in itself, data collected by the Census Bureau barely begins to express the reality of poverty in the US, let alone explain the real sources of its increase. Moreover, the official poverty line is in itself wholly inadequate as a measure of economic well-being and stability, and does more to understate the decline in living standards than elucidate it. When it was developed nearly half a century ago, the poverty line was a calculation of the bare minimum required by a family to eat a healthy diet based on the estimate that the average family spent a third of their income on food. While it has been adjusted annually for inflation, the poverty measure does not account for substantial changes in the living expenses of working Americans, such as the cost of child care and transportation, for the huge increase in housing costs, or for the burden of healthcare expenditures among the largely uninsured poverty population. (MORE)
US severe poverty highest in three decades, continued
12 years ago
Only the very richest individuals have benefited from the economic expansion since 2001; the vast majority of Americans have unarguably seen a decline in living standards, job and retirement prospects, and savings. As the Economic Policy Institute puts it in its current The State of Working America, “Despite the fact that the most recent economic expansion began in late 2001, the real income of the median family fell each year through 2004. Between 2000 and 2005, real median family income fell by 2.3 percent, or about $1,300 in 2004 dollars.” [1] While wages stagnated, cost of living rose significantly, driving the low- and middle-income populations into more and more difficult circumstances. Meanwhile, funding and access to social programs for the poor have been greatly reduced. Debt, foreclosure, and bankruptcy rates have all increased substantially. Those already in or near poverty have been the most vulnerable to this backsliding because of the “jobless” nature of the recovery. A November 2006 New York Times analysis of 2004 federal tax information found that the bottom fifth of American taxpayers earned below $11,166, with their average income amounting to less than $5,800. Accounting for the fact that the IRS definition of “taxpayer” applies to single individuals as well as jointly filing couples, the Times estimated that the poorest 26 million taxpayers represented nearly 48 million adults and about 12 million dependent children. By this measure, the Times estimated that the poorest 60 million Americans lived on less than $7 a day. (See “60 million Americans living on less than $7 a day—US income figures show staggering rise in social inequality”) By comparison, the 2004 poverty line was $27 a day for a single adult below retirement age and $42 a day for a household with one child. The divergence of the average income of the poverty population and the poverty line, as artificially low as it is, is an important indicator of the real state of the economy. This measure is called the ‘poverty gap.’ In 2005, the average poverty gap was a record $8,000. The significance of this gap is that, on average, poor families are truly poorer now than in earlier periods. [2] Many analysts assert that the hardships of poverty are overstated because poverty measures do not include the worth of social services such as food stamps and medical assistance, or the welfare program’s successor, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). However, the latest available data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation reveals that in 2003, a mere 10 percent of severely poor Americans received TANF aid, and only slightly more than a third of the severely poor were enrolled in the Food Stamp program. As the McClatchy report notes, “the low participation rates are troubling because the worst byproducts of poverty, such as higher crime and violence rates and poor health, nutrition and educational outcomes, are worse for those in deep poverty.” Indeed, a study on the prevalence of severe poverty in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded, “A rise in poverty rates is important because of the enormous difficulties faced by the poor in meeting the most basic human needs (e.g., education, jobs, higher earnings).” [3] The study enumerated the consequences of falling into poverty: “The public health implications of increasing poverty are profound, given how strongly social class is linked with premature mortality, disease, and mental illness. The poor have greater exposure to risk factors, such as those caused by homelessness, substandard housing, and environmental pollutants. They experience greater rates of smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity, in part because impoverished neighborhoods are not conducive to healthy lifestyles (e.g., having built environments for walking and supermarkets that offer healthy food choices); these communities are also targets for the promotion of cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and fast foods.” For the third of the poverty population without health insurance and the majority with no savings, all of these factors compound one another. Importantly, the study found that “the recent increase in poverty rates is explained largely by a dramatic upsurge in severe poverty” after the year 2000. “The population with an income deficit of at least $8,000 below the poverty threshold,” which includes a larger and larger share of the overall poverty population, “appears to be vulnerable to a different experience than those with incomes closer to the poverty threshold.” The study suggested that the growth of extreme poverty was producing a “sinkhole” effect on US income distribution as a whole, exposing millions more Americans to dire circumstances. These observations of poverty trends are quite valuable, and disturbingly uncommon. The study’s authors pointed out that their queries on “severe poverty” and “deep poverty” in the Social Sciences Citation Index and PubMed search engines from 2001 to the present returned not one article. Between 2002 and 2005, the authors noted, the Washington Post and New York Times ran only eight articles about Census data, wherein a median of only two sentences were devoted to the steady and substantial increase in poverty. (MORE)
US severe poverty highest in three decades, continued
12 years ago
Press statements from the Census Bureau were no better; only a single briefing on severe poverty has been released since 2000, during a 2003 review of 2002 data. The mention consisted of a single sentence: “The 14.1 million people with incomes less than half their thresholds represent 4.9 percent of the population (and 41 percent of the poverty population), percentages not different from 2001.” [4] Virtually nowhere is the relationship between the rise in extreme poverty and the extreme concentration of wealth raised. The growth of severe impoverishment is an unmistakable manifestation of inequality, itself the product of definite policies aimed at diverting social resources into the hands of a financial elite. At a time when the top 1 percent of US households received 17 percent of all national income, held more than a third of all net worth, and more than 42 percent of all net assets, nearly a fifth of households held zero or negative net worth. Another third of the population held less than $10,000. [5] Notes: [1] Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto. The State of Working America 2006/2007. An Economic Policy Institute Book. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2007, p. 39. [2] Ibid, p. 288. [3] Woolf S, Johnson R, Geiger, H. The Rising Prevalence of Severe Poverty in America: A Growing Threat to Public Health. Am J Prev Med 2006; 31 (4): 332-341. Accessed at: [4] [5] Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto. The State of Working America 2006/2007. An Economic Policy Institute Book. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2007, p. 257. *fair use*
related poverty links here in HCRCL
12 years ago
Poverty Is Brave New Wares- to end poverty, homelessness Killed by Poverty in a World of Plenty URGENT: CALL to FIGHT POVERTY !! Heat Assistance Runs Out On Reservations in below zero temp's!! Poverty Increases in 85 Percent of Illinois Counties For the first time, poverty shifts to the U.S. suburbs Canadians must all help fight 'poverty and exclusion': Governor General On Poverty ... Women,Poverty and Homelessness in Canada PROTECT the POVERTY FUNDING ALREADY PROMISED!! Oprah show on Detroit poverty, homelessness URGENT!! SAVE the ANTI-POVERTY FUNDING!! Some facts about poverty in the US Report: World Bank Losing War on Poverty Poverty Tour Homelessness not separate from Poverty poverty:an increasing likelihood for workers in Detroit’s suburbs Nelson Mandela- While poverty persists, there is no freedom (MORE)
Thanks for the info
12 years ago
Thank you Harmony for all your hard work. Namaste
Hi Carrie!
12 years ago
You're quite welcome!

Is this a better font size, do you think?
re: changing face of the us economy...
12 years ago

hi harmony...a very indepth report thank you i think the following statement of your hits the crux of the problem on the head:

Many believe it is the changing face of the US economy. Tulsa has been devastated by job losses. Big-name firms like WorldCom, Williams Energy and CitGo have closed or moved, costing the city about 24,000 jobs. Now Wal-Mart embodies the new American job market: low wages, few benefits. by harmony

the way over-conglomerates have pinned and pushed the markets to their own quater...huge concern take huge losses as do moderate concerns take moderate losses...the biggies find the more money the more problems syndrome hits down onto their profits and the economy and work force is squoze even tighter...when the first trade and stock markets were established and opened globally...the caps and legal ethics of profit and wealth should have been adhered have stopped these over-conglomerates swellings and stagnating over other global competition and industries that serve us better by concern not their own comfort

x tracy

Grateful thanks to Lou!
12 years ago
Who is sharing with us his excellent collection of links on "poverty" on

The links are all from the Toronto Star (Canada) and focus on Canadian poverty.
more threads on poverty here in HCRCL
12 years ago

Poverty is spreading
















12 years ago

Totally. Thank U. Harmony

the rest of the poverty threads here in HCRCL
12 years ago












American poverty as a structural failing: evidence and arguments
12 years ago American poverty as a structural failing: evidence and arguments Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, Dec, 2003 by Mark R. Rank, Hong-Sik Yoon, Thomas A. Hirschl Empirical research on American poverty has largely focused on individual characteristics to explain the occurrence and patterns of poverty. The argument in this article is that such an emphasis is misplaced. By focusing upon individual attributes as the cause of poverty, social scientists have largely missed the underlying dynamic of American impoverishment. Poverty researchers have in effect focused on who loses out at the economic game, rather than addressing the fact that the game produces losers in the first place. We provide three lines of evidence to suggest that U.S. poverty is ultimately the result of structural failings at the economic, political, and social levels. These include an analysis into the lack of sufficient jobs in the economy to raise families out of poverty or near poverty; a comparative examination into the high rates of U.S. poverty as a result of the ineffectiveness of the social safety net; and the systemic nature of poverty as indicated by the life course risk of impoverishment experienced by a majority of Americans. We then briefly outline a framework for reinterpreting American poverty. This perspective incorporates the prior research findings that have focused on individual characteristics as important factors in who loses out at the economic game, with the structural nature of American poverty that ensures the existence of economic losers in the first place. Keywords: American poverty, low wages, U.S. economy, social welfare, human capital, social structure ********** Few questions have generated as much discussion across time as that of the causes of human impoverishment. The sources and origins of poverty have been debated for centuries. As the historian R. M. Hartwell notes, "The causes of poverty, its relief and cure, have been a matter of serious concern to theologians, statesmen, civil servants, intellectuals, tax-payers and humanitarians since the Middle Ages" (1986: 16). The question of causality has found itself at the heart of most debates surrounding poverty and the poor. In recent times these debates have often been divided into two ideological camps. On one hand, poverty has been viewed as the result of individual failings. From this perspective, specific attributes of the impoverished individual have brought about their poverty. These include a wide set of characteristics, ranging from the lack of an industrious work ethic or virtuous morality, to low levels of education or competitive labor market skills. On the other hand, poverty has periodically been interpreted as the result of failings at the structural level, such as the inability of the economy to produce enough decent paying jobs. Within the United States, the dominant perspective has been that of poverty as an individual failing. From Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac to the recent welfare reform changes, poverty has been conceptualized primarily as a consequence of individual failings and deficiencies. Indeed, social surveys asking about the causes of poverty have consistently found that Americans tend to rank individual reasons (such as laziness, lack of effort, and low ability) as the most important factors related to poverty, while structural reasons such as unemployment or discrimination are viewed as significantly less important (Feagin, 1975; Gilens, 1999; Kluegel and Smith, 1986). This emphasis on individual attributes as the primary cause of poverty has also been reinforced by social scientists engaged in poverty research (O'Connor, 2001). As the social survey has become the dominant methodological approach during the past 50 years, and with multivariate modeling becoming the principal statistical technique, the research emphasis has increasingly fallen on understanding poverty and welfare dependency in terms of individual attributes. The unit of analysis in these studies is by definition the individual rather than the wider social or economic structures, resulting in statistical models of individual characteristics predicting individual behavior. Consequently, the long standing tension between structural versus individual approaches to explaining poverty has largely been tilted within the empirical poverty research community towards that of the individual. As Alice O'Connor writes, That this tension has more often been resolved in favor of the individualist interpretation can be seen in several oft-noted features in poverty research. One is the virtual absence of class as an analytic category, at least as compared with more individualized measures of status such as family background and human capital. A similar individualizing tendency can be seen in the reduction of race and gender to little more than demographic, rather than structurally constituted, categories (2001: 9). The argument in this article is that such an emphasis is misplaced and misdirected. By focusing on individual attributes as the cause of poverty, social scientists have largely missed the underlying dynamic of American impoverishment. Poverty researchers have in effect focused on who loses out at the economic game, rather than addressing the fact that the game produces losers in the first place. An analysis into this underlying dynamic is critical to advancing our state of knowledge regarding American poverty. *fair use*
Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty
12 years ago Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty By Eyal Press, The Nation Posted on April 11, 2007, Printed on April 11, 2007 Rockingham County, North Carolina, has never been known for its opulence, but until recently most residents would not have hesitated to describe it as comfortably middle class. For several decades the county, a rectangular block of land in the north central part of the state, owed its prosperity to textile mills and tobacco plants, industries that weren't always friendly to unions but that nevertheless furnished the local workforce with jobs that paid enough to raise a family and buy a nice house somewhere. Among those to do so was Johnny Price, a 44-year-old African-American who lives in a ranch house with green shutters on a street called Sparrow in a leafy residential subdivision on the outskirts of the town of Eden. Two towering oak trees dominate Price's front lawn. In his driveway sits a navy blue station wagon. By the standards of some newly built suburbs, the setup is modest, but for Price, the youngest of ten children whose father died when he was 6 and whose mother worked as a domestic servant, it's a testament to the rewards of hard work and perseverance, values he's tried to instill in his teenage son and daughter, who have lived with him since he and his wife divorced. Lately this has gotten more challenging. A year ago Price lost the job he'd held for nineteen years in company-wide layoffs at Unified, a textile manufacturer. He's now struggling to make do on $1,168 in monthly unemployment benefits and, like many people in Rockingham County, which has been ravaged by plant closings in recent years, wondering how long he'll be able to continue paying his mortgage. Stories of downward mobility in America's suburbs have not exactly cluttered the headlines over the past decade. Gated communities of dream homes, mansions ringed by man-made lakes and glass-cube office parks: These are the images typically evoked by the posh, supersized subdivisions built during the 1990s technology boom. Low-wage jobs, houses under foreclosure, families unable to afford food and medical care are not. But venture beyond the city limits of any major metropolitan area today, and you will encounter these things, in forms less concentrated -- and therefore less visible -- than in the more blighted pockets of our cities perhaps, but with growing frequency all the same. In the three counties surrounding Greensboro, North Carolina, the city half an hour south of where Johnny Price lives, the poverty rate has surged in recent years. It now stands at 14.4 percent, only slightly below the level in New Orleans. Greensboro, it turns out, is not alone. Last December the Brookings Institution published a report showing that from Las Vegas to Boise to Houston, suburban poverty has been growing over the past seven years, in some places slowly, in others by as much as 33 percent. "The enduring social and fiscal challenges for cities that stem from high poverty are increasingly shared by their suburbs," the report concludes. It's a problem some may assume is confined to the ragged fringes of so-called "inner ring" suburbs that directly border cities, places where the housing stock is older and from which many wealthier residents long ago departed. But this isn't the case. "Overall ... first suburbs did not bear the brunt of increasing suburban poverty in the early 2000s," notes the Brookings report, which found that economic distress has spread to "second-tier suburbs and 'exurbs'" as well. The result is a historic milestone that has gone strangely ignored: For the first time ever, more poor Americans live in the suburbs than in all our cities combined. One reason this shift may not have sunk into public consciousness is that for as long as suburbs have existed, Americans have tended to envision them as pristine sanctuaries where people go to escape brushing shoulders with the poor. The most familiar historical example -- much lamented by a generation of progressives who came to associate the migration to suburbs with racial backlash and urban decline -- is the mass exodus of middle-class white ethnics from the nation's central cities, which accelerated in the wake of the riots and social unrest of the 1960s. In more recent years, it's often assumed, the forces fueling the growth of suburbs have only made things worse -- the social landscape more segregated, the sprawl more extreme, the gap increasingly vast between people who rarely set foot in cities and those who rarely leave them. In fact, however, the gentrification of many urban neighborhoods, from Brooklyn to San Francisco to Washington, has forced many working-class residents out. In a reversal of the classic migration story, many of these displaced residents have fled to the suburbs, lured in part by the growing pool of mostly low-wage jobs there -- cleaning homes, mowing lawns, staffing restaurants, strip malls and office plazas. Alan Berube, co-author of the Brookings Institution study, says the "decentralization of low-wage employment" is one of the main factors driving suburban poverty rates up. (more)
Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty, continued
12 years ago
In some counties, a lot of those jobs are falling to immigrants, who are increasingly heading straight to the suburbs rather than to cities in search of employment. In his 2004 book On Paradise Drive, David Brooks presents a sunny portrait of the gorgeous mosaic that the influx of foreigners into formerly lily-white subdivisions has wrought. "Now you'll see little Taiwanese girls in the figure-skating clinics, Ukrainian boys learning to pitch," he writes. What you'll also see are people like the day laborers who gather every morning in the parking lots of the Home Depots in Nassau County, Long Island, where the median family income is $87,558 and the overall poverty rate is fairly low, but where the demand for food stamps has increased by 40 percent since 2003. Although the median hourly wage for the roofing and construction jobs that day laborers land is $10 an hour, many don't see a penny of this: A study last year by researchers at UCLA found that nearly half experience wage theft. A worker from Mexico I spoke with on a frigid day in February said he was owed $400 for some plumbing he'd done recently. Like most of the other men around him, he wore a hooded sweatshirt rather than a coat and cupped his fingers around his mouth to warm his bare hands, proper winter apparel evidently being an unaffordable luxury. Because the work is seasonal and sporadic, few day laborers earn more than $15,000 a year. More than half of those injured on the job don't receive the medical care they need. Other immigrants on Long Island ply trades whose wages and hours call to mind certain features of urban sweatshops, save that the exploitation, like so much else in suburbia, is more hidden and dispersed. "We did a survey of domestic workers here and found that people were working seventy-hour weeks and getting, on average, $4.03 an hour," said Nadia Marin-Molina, director of an immigrants' rights organization called the Workplace Project, in Nassau County. Not long ago, three workers dropped by her office from a nearby restaurant to report they'd been getting $20 for twelve-hour shifts, well below the minimum wage even after factoring in tips. At a deli in the town center of Garden City, an affluent enclave of sprawling homes and fancy shops just down the road from the Workplace Project's modest headquarters, several others were fired simply for demanding to be paid on the books. Last year, the Workplace Project helped immigrants in Nassau County recuperate $143,849 in back wages, some from contractors who paid them with checks that bounced, others from companies like Popeyes and D'Angelo Pizzeria that didn't compensate them for overtime. That landing a service job hardly guarantees earning an adequate income would not come as news to former factory workers in North Carolina. Johnny Price is currently enrolled in courses at Rockingham Community College, funded under the Trade Adjustment Act, in the hope of becoming an accountant. He told me there's no way he could keep up with his $700 mortgage payments and support his kids working as a clerk in a place like Wal-Mart, a major employer with two new stores in the area. Price used to make $15 an hour, with health benefits and vacation days. What he's hoping to avoid is the fate of people like Jodi Wilmouth, whom I met at the Rockingham County Red Cross, which opened a food pantry several years ago in a low-slung brick building in Eden. Wilmouth earns $6.25 an hour as a cashier at a local department store called Belk, which she said is not enough to cover her basic expenses. On the day she dropped by, President Bush was visiting a Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois. He later said that in today's economy "workers are making more money." Ada Wells, who works at the food pantry, offered a different view. "What we have are the working poor," said Wells, another former textile employee. "When I left my factory in 1999, the lowest-paid workers made $9 an hour, with insurance and vacation days. Now we have people who can't pay their electricity bills on the wages they earn." There are certain comparative advantages to being poor in a place other than inner-city Cleveland or Detroit. Whatever else he may fear, Price doesn't have to worry about his children growing up on a street strewn with crack vials and gang graffiti -- the one he lives on has manicured lawns and driveways with basketball hoops. The peculiar toxicity of urban poverty, many scholars believe, rests in its intense concentration, the welter of enmeshed problems that fuel crime, spiraling dropout rates and an air of hopelessness that leeches into every aspect of neighborhood life. But the suburbs also have their disadvantages, among them the fact that getting anywhere generally requires a car. There's no public transportation system in most outlying suburban areas, which is why the people who show up at the food pantry at the Red Cross in Rockingham County often carpool to get there, cramming one person each from four or five families into a single vehicle to save gas. Then, too, the newness of suburban poverty means in many towns there's a dearth of social service agencies to offer help. Nearly 7,000 people showed up at the food pantry last year, a sevenfold increase from 2000. "It's overwhelming," said Janna Nowell, the facility's director. The day before I visited, the pantry ran out of food, a problem that's become familiar in many suburban locales. "There's a growing spatial gap between the providers and the people in need," says Alan Berube. "Public hospitals, nutrition assistance programs -- most of these things are still overwhelmingly urban. You see small-scale operations in suburbs getting inundated. They just can't deal with the demand." (more)
Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty, continued
12 years ago
An even more vexing challenge is finding an affordable place to live, since most of the low-income, subsidized housing in America was built in cities. Where do indigent people in the suburbs go? In North Carolina, among the few options are places like the slate-gray trailer that 62-year-old Barbara Hall now calls home. She used to live in a four-bedroom ranch house with her husband and kids. That was before she got divorced and lost her job. "It's humiliating," says Hall, who has long silver hair, clear blue eyes and a chronic bad back that requires her to take medication she can't currently afford. There are, of course, more fortunate people in the suburbs whose houses have doubled and tripled in size in recent years -- tech workers in the booming area surrounding North Carolina's research triangle, for example. But since 1998, housing foreclosures in North Carolina have nearly tripled. The trend extends beyond the South -- there were 1.2 million foreclosures across the country in 2006, a 42 percent increase from the previous year -- and is among the indications that the number of people under economic duress in many suburbs far exceeds the percentage that is officially poor. Compared with Barbara Hall, who is unemployed and surviving on disability checks, Rosa Melara, who lives in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburban area adjacent to Washington, is doing well. Melara works in a nail salon and earned $28,000 last year. She also lives in a county with more low-income housing than most suburbs, thanks to inclusionary zoning policies that for decades have required affordable units to be built in large-scale developments. Yet Melara rents a converted garage without heating because most of the apartments and houses in Montgomery County are still well beyond her means. About half the parishioners in the church she attends in suburban Bethesda are facing similar problems, she told me. I met Melara at another church in neighboring Howard County, also in the Washington-Baltimore corridor and for several years among the wealthiest counties in the United States. Last year a task force on affordable housing appointed by County Executive James Robey warned that "an undeniable gap" exists between the need for low-income housing and its availability in the area, and not only for the poor. Seventy percent of the jobs in the county, including those of entry-level teachers in its celebrated public school system, cops who patrol the streets and firemen who respond to emergencies, pay less than $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, the average single-family house sold for nearly ten times that amount, $485,500, and rents have crept ever higher. The result is that a growing share of the population -- public servants, couples starting families, retirees, recent college graduates -- can't find affordable places to live, according to the task force: "These are the children and parents of County residents," its report stated, "County teachers and police officers, the waiters and waitresses who serve meals, the Mall workers, the hospital workers, the people who contribute to the quality of life in Howard County in countless ways." The dilemma is far worse, of course, for the truly indigent, not least because a lot of suburbanites who might be willing to hire them as nannies or to be served by them at restaurants don't necessarily want them as neighbors. In June 2005 authorities in the town of Brookhaven, in Suffolk County, Long Island, launched a series of raids to shut down overcrowded homes in which immigrants lacking other affordable options were renting rooms. County Executive Steve Levy, a Democrat, declared that the evictions were necessary to "preserve suburbia as we know it." At 196 Berkshire Drive, a powder-blue clapboard house that was raided, immigrants protested by setting up tents in the backyard and sleeping outside. Others who were evicted wound up sleeping in the woods on plastic sheets, their belongings stowed under bushes. In a special report on housing on Long Island, Newsday likened the packed, often filthy quarters where many immigrants live -- a dozen boarders crammed into a basement flooded with sewage, adults sleeping in the closets of houses on tree-lined streets in nice neighborhoods -- to "turn-of-the-century tenements." Other counties have introduced anti-soliciting laws to drive away day laborers like the ones I met outside the Home Depot in neighboring Nassau County, another sign that being poor in the suburbs comes with the added burden of being made to feel you don't belong. Several of the workers I met told me they've been called "parasites." Some day laborers have had rocks thrown at them. At one point, the Mexican man I spoke with motioned toward a red car that circled by, driven, he said, by a security guard from Staples who patrols the area to make sure he and his fellow laborers stay on the edge of the parking lot, so customers won't be disturbed. In September 2000 two immigrants were picked up by what they thought were contractors, taken to an abandoned warehouse and nearly killed. (They survived by dashing onto the Long Island Expressway.) (more)
Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty, continued
12 years ago
Such incidents may be viewed as a product of racism or of something else: a sense of anxiety about the future that extends far beyond the ranks of the poor. "I do think middle-class people here feel squeezed, and if leaders don't offer solutions, they'll look for people to blame," says Workplace Project's Marin-Molina. As in Howard County, evidence of this insecurity is not hard to come by. In 2004 more than 40 percent of Long Island homeowners spent more than one-third of their income (the conventional definition of a "cost burden") on housing, a report published last year by Adelphi University found. In recent years the typical starting job in the region has paid $24,000, far short of the $60,780 the Economic Policy Institute has estimated a family of four would need to cover basic living expenses. Unravel the thread linking suburbs to prosperity and something else begins to come undone: the story Republicans have told about how people living there, particularly those in the fastest-growing, furthest-outlying communities, are their natural constituents. "Democrats stink in the exurbs" is how conservative columnist Brooks put it some years ago, pointing to the strip-mall zones around Orlando, strong Jeb Bush territory, and to Mesa, Arizona, a booming area east of Phoenix. In these rapidly expanding communities, places where the parking lots of megachurches fill up every Sunday with SUVs, liberals just don't have a clue what matters to people, Brooks implied. In the 2004 election, it appeared he was right: Republicans swept such areas, carrying a startling ninety-seven of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the country. In Democratic circles, panic ensued. It turned out the panic was premature. In last year's midterm elections the GOP's advantage in the exurbs narrowed considerably. Democrats won 60 percent of the vote in inner suburbs, 55 percent in the next ring and a majority of the overall suburban vote. They would not control either the House or Senate today were it not for these gains. In part, the shift reflects widespread disillusionment with the war in Iraq. But it may also be a sign that Republicans have become the clueless ones when it comes to decoding the concerns of suburbanites. The GOP's presumed edge with these voters rested on the assumption that new suburban growth centers were filling up with prosperous middle-class professionals who care most about low taxes and being left alone to raise their kids. A lot of suburbs now appear to be filling up with a different social type: stressed-out parents worried about healthcare, college tuition and paying their mortgage. Political scientist Jacob Hacker has referred to such people as "office-park populists," folks who "aren't necessarily buying smash-the-system rants against free trade and immigration ... [but] are skeptical of corporate promises and concerned about their security." Addressing the concerns of such people is, of course, not necessarily synonymous with tackling the predicament of the suburban poor. (As the raids on immigrants in Nassau County show, suburban populism can cut two ways.) Nor is the party affiliation of low-income suburbanites necessarily so easy to predict. In North Carolina I met numerous people who fumed about the scandalously low minimum wage or about NAFTA -- and then told me they were Republicans. Others complained about the exorbitant cost of healthcare -- and about how the government is giving it away free to undocumented Mexicans. But still others nodded when asked about John Edwards's assertion that there are two Americas today. "We do have two Americas," said Ada Wells of Rockingham County, "and they don't understand each other." Many suburbanites I spoke with seemed interested in issues -- affordable housing, a higher minimum wage, universal health insurance -- that progressive Democrats have long argued should be at the center of the party's agenda, and that both Hacker's "office-park populists" and the people who clean those offices for a living have a stake in. Granted, the affluent software engineers flocking to emerging suburbs might still care more about lower taxes. But more than half the people in emerging suburbs don't have a four-year college degree. The African-American population in such places surged by 50 percent in the 1990s. "If you look at emerging suburbs, they're becoming rapidly more diverse," says the Democratic pollster Ruy Teixeira. "And they're full of people who don't make a lot of money." Beyond altering voting patterns, the dispersal of poverty to the suburbs has the potential to upend a larger idea: that the interests of suburbanites and city dwellers are diametrically opposed. This has been the guiding -- if often unspoken -- premise driving regional development for decades, one that has played no small part in fueling residential segregation and sprawl. But if cities and suburbs increasingly face many of the same problems, wouldn't it make sense for them to work together? (more)
Suburbia: America's Unseen Poverty, continued
12 years ago
One proponent of this view is David Rusk, former mayor of Albuquerque and a longtime advocate of more equitable regional development. "In order to deal with the problems of poverty and economic decline reaching across cities into many suburbs, you have to get states to lay down some strong directives with regard to balanced regional housing development and some form of regional tax-base sharing," he says. To illustrate why, Rusk cites the case of southern New Jersey, in particular the area surrounding Camden. "This is an area of roughly 1.75 million people, and the ten fastest-growing municipalities, in terms of job creation, are all third-ring suburbs," he says. "They saw the creation of about 42,000 jobs in the 1990s, but the construction of only 1,200 low-income housing units. Meanwhile, the ten areas that were the biggest employment losers saw 25,000 jobs disappear, but 16,000 price-controlled housing units built. It's a mirror opposite of what's needed -- where the job supply is growing, there's no affordable workforce housing. Where it's vanishing, it's all piled in." Rusk has coined a motto that a growing number of advocacy groups and regional leaders are coming to embrace: "If you're good enough to work here, you're good enough to live here." It is with this principle in mind that New Jersey reformers are rallying behind the idea of repealing an unsavory practice known as a Regional Contribution Agreement, or RCA, an innocuous-sounding term for the Machiavellian deals that enable one municipality -- typically an affluent, high-growth suburb -- to circumvent its obligation to build low-income housing within its boundaries by paying another municipality -- typically a poor city desperate for money -- to construct the units instead. The not-so-subtle purpose is to enable suburbs to prevent the "wrong" kind of people from moving in. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has said he thinks RCAs are detrimental, but he has yet to endorse legislation introduced in the State Senate that would abolish them. Even if Corzine comes around, it's perhaps naïve to imagine that such practices will altogether cease: The suburbs were created, after all, precisely to erect spatial barriers between rich and poor. This is surely part of the reason new ones keep springing up in ever more remote areas, away from the crime and squalor (read: poor brown and black folk) in urban locales. But it is also a fact that less affluent people are slowly but surely finding their way into suburbs anyway. Jonathan Lange, an organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation, works in two of the wealthiest areas in the country: Maryland's Howard and Montgomery counties. The poverty in both places is "discreet, hard to get your hands on and extremely difficult to organize," he says. Nevertheless, it's there. Not long ago, a pastor Lange knows discovered that there are scores of homeless kids at Oakland Mills, a Howard County high school. Some of the kids sleep in cars, others in cheap motels, the pastor was told, an experience unimaginable to many of their classmates, perhaps, but increasingly emblematic of the suburban population these days. Eyal Press is a Nation contributing writer. © 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. View this story online at: *fair use*
Truthdig: The High Cost of Ignoring Poverty
12 years ago Posted on May 4, 2007 By E.J. Dionne WASHINGTON—Republicans once preached compassion, but then went off to war. Democrats waged a war on poverty, but then lost some elections. They decided the middle class is where it’s at. But the poor are still with us and their ranks are growing. One in eight Americans lives in poverty, which seems obscene given that the really rich are enjoying a level of privilege that may make the Vanderbilts in the Gilded Age look like abstemious Puritans. “Rising inequality” is a bloodless term. But consider the facts behind the phrase: In 2005, the richest 1 percent of Americans held 19 percent of the nation’s income, the largest share since 1929; the poorest 20 percent held only 3.4 percent. The historically inclined will recall that 1929 was the year of the great crash, which was followed by the Great Depression. History suggests that concentrating wealth and income in a small group of privileged people is bad for economic growth. One reason our nation has maintained generally healthy levels of economic growth is our success in spreading income around—particularly during the 1940s to the early 1970s. This created more purchasing power among an ever larger group of Americans. We are thus tempting fate by following the formula of Andrew Mellon, the Republican Treasury secretary in the Roaring ‘20s who never met a tax cut for the rich he didn’t like. He was rather popular until 1929. Here’s the odd thing about the present moment: As a country, we are much more practical about poverty reduction than we were in the 1960s. Most plans on offer are not utopian schemes. They promote work and would build ladders so today’s poor can become tomorrow’s middle class. That’s the significance of the anti-poverty report issued last week by the Center for American Progress, the think tank that is the closest thing we have to a Democratic administration in exile. The CAP report deserves more attention than it has gotten, not because it breaks new ground but precisely because it brings together some of the most pragmatic ideas on poverty reduction. The task force that prepared it included veteran liberals such as Peter Edelman and Angela Glover Blackwell, but also resolute middle-of-the-roaders such as the Rev. Floyd Flake, a champion of faith-based approaches to poverty, and Charles Kolb, president of the pro-business Committee for Economic Development. Their first recommendations aren’t revolutionary, just sensible: They’d raise the minimum wage, and they’d expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program supported by Ronald Reagan and expanded by Bill Clinton. The EITC has done more than any other measure to keep working Americans out of poverty. The task force would also make unionization easier, on the theory that giving workers the power to bargain for themselves is better than a government handout. More should be done for poor 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of school and out of work. In 2005, the report says, there were 1.7 million of them, a number big enough to be alarming but small enough to give public policy a chance to make a difference. Other recommendations are designed to promote upward mobility through expanded child-care assistance, “early education for all” and stepped-up efforts to make higher education more accessible. The panel would modernize the unemployment insurance system and other low-income programs that date back 30 years or more. Capitalists should like their proposals to give the poor more access to financial services and expand their ability to save. And to prevent a new crime wave, the task force urges us to do a lot more to “help former prisoners find stable employment and reintegrate into their communities.” Will all this cost money? You bet, about $90 billion a year—a little over one-fifth of the annual cost of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, many of which go to the rich. This would not break the bank of a country with a $13 trillion GDP, and it’s for programs that cannot be demonized as more of “the failed old liberalism.” The new Democratic majority in Congress seems determined to “fix” the alternative minimum tax, which unfairly pushes many middle- and upper-middle-income taxpayers into brackets they shouldn’t be in. That’s just fine. But these taxpayers are still doing reasonably well after taxes. A lot of Americans in the ranks of the working poor are not doing well, and they are the people Democrats claim to represent. And it would be awfully nice if Republicans revisited their commitment to compassion. As President Bush knew in 2000, swing voters like that sort of thing. E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is postchat(at symbol) © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group *fair use*

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