Category Archives: Poverty

2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2019

From the summary:
The 30th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Book begins by exploring how America’s child population — and the American childhood experience — has changed since 1990.

And there’s some good news to share: Of the 16 areas of child well-being tracked across four domains — health, education, family and community and economic well-being — 11 have improved since the Foundation published its first Data Book 30 editions ago.

The rest of the 2019 Data Book — including the latest national trends and state rankings — rely on a shorter review window: 2010 to 2017.

The data reveal, in the United States today, more parents are financially stable and living without burdensome housing costs. More teens are graduating from high school and delaying parenthood. And access to children’s health insurance has increased compared to just seven years ago.

But it is not all good news. The risk of babies being born at a low weight continues to rise, racial inequities remain systemic and stubbornly persistent and 12% of kids across the country are still growing up in areas of concentrated poverty.

Locally, New Hampshire has claimed the No. 1 spot in overall child well-being, followed by Massachusetts and Iowa. Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico sit at the other end of this list — and among familiar company. In fact, save for California and Alaska, the lowest 18 ranked states call Appalachia, the South or the Southwest home.

How to Adjust the Official Poverty Measure

Source: State Policy Reports, Vol. 37 no. 10, May 2019
(subscription required)

A recent request by a federal agency is purportedly intended to gather information to inform a future decision, but some observers see a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Related:
Trump May Redefine Poverty, Cutting Americans From Welfare Rolls
Source: Justin Sink, Bloomberg, May 6, 2019

• OMB says in regulatory filing it may recalculate poverty level
• Switch to so-called chained CPI would slow growth of poverty

FAQ: The Trump Administration’s Proposal to Lower the Federal Poverty Line
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 30, 2019

On May 6, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a notice requesting comments on changing the methodology for updating the federal poverty line for inflation. The notice floats the idea of updating the Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds using an alternative, lower measure of inflation than the traditional Consumer Price Index (known as the CPI-U) — either the “chained” CPI or the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index. This would result in lower poverty thresholds, with the gap between the current and proposed methodologies increasing each year….

State of the Union: Millennial Dilemma

Source: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, May 2019

The annual Poverty and Inequality Report provides a unified analysis that brings together evidence across such issues as poverty, employment, income inequality, health inequality, economic mobility, and educational access to allow for a comprehensive assessment of where the country stands. In this year’s issue, the country’s leading experts provide the latest evidence on how millennials are faring.

Contents include:

Executive Summary
David B. Grusky, Marybeth Mattingly, Charles Varner, and Stephanie Garlow
With each new generation, there’s inevitably much angst and hand-wringing, but never have we worried as much as we worry about millennials. We review the evidence on whether all that worrying is warranted.

Racial and Gender Identities
Sasha Shen Johfre and Aliya Saperstein
The usual stereotypes have it that millennials are embracing a more diverse and unconventional set of racial and gender identities. Are those stereotypes on the mark?

Student Debt
Susan Dynarski
Often tagged the “student debt generation,” millennials took out more student loans, took out larger student loans, and defaulted more frequently. Here’s a step-by-step accounting of how we let this happen.

Employment
Harry J. Holzer
Labor force activity has declined especially rapidly among young workers. The good news: We know how to take on this problem.

Criminal Justice
Bruce Western and Jessica Simes
The imprisonment rate has fallen especially rapidly among black men. Does this much-vaunted trend conceal as much as it reveals?

Education
Florencia Torche and Amy L. Johnson
The payoff to a college degree is as high for millennials as it’s ever been. But it’s partly because millennials who don’t go to college are getting hammered in the labor market.

Income and Earnings
Christine Percheski
When millennials entered the labor market during the Great Recession and its aftermath, there were uniformly gloomy predictions about their fate. Does the evidence bear out such gloomy predictions?

Social Mobility
Michael Hout
Millennials have a mobility problem. And it’s partly because the economy is no longer delivering a steady increase in high-status jobs.

Occupational Segregation
Kim A. Weeden
Are millennial women and men working side by side in the new economy? Or are their occupations just as gender-segregated as ever?

Poverty and the Safety Net
Marybeth Mattingly, Christopher Wimer, Sophie Collyer and Luke Aylward
Millennial poverty rates at age 30 are no higher than those of Gen Xers at the same age. But this stability hides a problem: Millennials are replacing a falloff in earnings with large increases in government assistance programs.

Housing
Darrick Hamilton and Christopher Famighetti
Housing reforms during the civil rights era helped to narrow the white-black homeownership gap. But those gains have now been completely lost … and the racial gap in young-adult homeownership is larger for millennials than for any generation in the past century.

Social Networks
Mario L. Small and Maleah Fekete
Millennials are not replacing face-to-face networks with online ones. Rather, they’re a generation that’s found a way to do it all, forging new online ties while also maintaining the usual face-to-face ones.

Health
Mark Duggan and Jackie Li
It might be thought that, for all their labor market woes, at least millennials now have health care and better health. How does this story fall short?

Policy
Sheldon Danziger
A comprehensive policy agenda that could help millennials … and other generations too.

What it Costs to Die

Source: Liz Farmer, Mattie Quinn, Governing, June 2019

Funerals have become a luxury that many Americans can’t afford. Cities and counties are paying the price….

…..What’s happening in Henry County is playing out in places across the country. Rising funeral costs and a lagging economy have made it increasingly hard for many low-income Americans to pay the necessary expenses to dispose of a body. The average cost of a funeral today is $7,400, a price tag that’s risen nearly twice as fast as inflation since the 1980s. (That cost doesn’t include flowers, obituaries and gravesite fees that can tack on another couple thousand dollars.) At a time when 40 percent of Americans can’t even afford an unexpected expense of just $400, according to the Federal Reserve, the notion of a proper funeral and burial has become, for many people, an unattainable luxury.

When family members can’t afford to claim a body, the burden falls on local governments to handle the remains. There’s no comprehensive data on the number of unclaimed bodies in morgues across the country, but everyone agrees it’s a problem that’s getting worse. The St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office had to add mobile refrigerated trailers in 2017 to hold all its bodies. The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner briefly lost accreditation in 2017 because it ran out of storage space. In Mobile County, Ala., annual spending on indigent burials has increased 300 percent over the last decade. In Kentucky, Pollard estimates that indigent burials have jumped 50 percent in just the past 18 months…..

Getting poorer while working harder: The ‘cliff effect’

Source: Susan R. Crandall, The Conversation, June 3, 2019

….Given the pressure to earn enough to make ends meet, you would think that low-paid workers would be clamoring for raises. But this is not always the case.

Because so many American jobs don’t earn enough to pay for food, housing and other basic needs, many low-wage workers rely on public benefits that are only available to people in need, such as housing vouchers and Medicaid, to pay their bills.

Earning a little more money may not automatically increase their standard of living if it boosts their income to the point where they lose access to some or all of those benefits. That’s because the value of those lost benefits may outweigh their income gains.

I have researched this dynamic, which experts often call the “cliff effect,” for years to learn why workers weren’t succeeding at retaining their jobs following job training programs. Chief among the one step forward, two steps back problems the cliff effect causes: Low-paid workers can become reluctant to earn more money due to a fear that they will get worse off instead of better…..

The Decline of Cash Assistance and the Well-Being of Poor Households with Children

Source: H Luke Shaefer, Kathryn Edin Vincent, Fusaro Pinghui Wu, Social Forces, Advance Articles, March 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Since the early 1990s, the social safety net for families with children in the United States has undergone an epochal transformation. Aid to poor working families has become more generous. In contrast, assistance to the deeply poor has become less generous, and what remains more often takes the form of in-kind aid. A historical view finds that this dramatic change parallels others. For centuries, the nature and form of poor relief has been driven in part by shifting cultural notions of which social groups are “deserving” and “undeserving.” This line was firmly redrawn in the 1990s. Did the re-institutionalization of these categorizations in policy have material consequences? This study examines the relationship between the decline of traditional cash welfare between 2001 and 2015 and two direct measures of wellbeing among households with children: household food insecurity and public school child homelessness. Using models that control for state and year trends, along with other factors, we find that the decline of cash assistance was associated with increases in both forms of hardship.

Pervasive Penality: How the Criminalization of Poverty Perpetuates Homelessness

Source: Chris Herring, Dilara Yarbrough, Lisa Marie Alatorre, Social Problems, Advance Article, March 29, 2019(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A growing literature examines the extent to which the criminal justice system perpetuates poverty and inequality. This research examines how anti-homeless laws produce various forms of police interactions that fall short of arrest, yet have wide-ranging impacts on the urban poor. Our analysis draws on a citywide survey of currently and recently homeless people, along with 43 in-depth interviews, to examine and reveal the mechanisms through which consistent punitive interactions, including move-along orders, citations, and destruction of property, systematically limit homeless people’s access to services, housing, and jobs, while damaging their health, safety, and well-being. Our findings also suggest that anti-homeless laws and enforcement fail to reduce urban disorder, but create instead a spatial churn in which homeless people circulate between neighborhoods and police jurisdictions rather than leaving public space. We argue that these laws and their enforcement, which affected the majority of study participants, constitute a larger process of pervasive penality—consistent punitive interactions with state officials that rarely result in arrest, but that do material and psychological harm. This process not only reproduces homelessness, but also deepens racial, gender, and health inequalities among the urban poor.

Water and sewer affordability in the United States

Source: Manuel P. Teodoro, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 2, March/April 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The ability of low‐income families to pay for basic water and sewer services is a subject of increasing concern. Large‐scale assessments of affordability across large numbers of American utilities are rare, however, and are limited by poor measurement and biased samples. The present study uses improved metrics and data from an original, representative sample of water and sewer utilities in the United States to calculate the affordability of basic single‐family residential water and sewer service for low‐income households. Results indicate that low‐income households must spend an average of 9.7% of their disposable income and/or work 9.5 h at minimum wage to pay for basic monthly water and sewer service but also that these values vary considerably across the country. Community‐level demographic and economic data are used to identify some correlates of affordability. Region, utility size, and local income inequality emerge as strong correlates of affordability.

The 2019 government shutdown is just the latest reason why poor people can’t bank on the safety net

Source: Jamila Michener, The Conversation, January 14, 2019

….People living in poverty are now bracing for that kind of chopping as a result of the partial government shutdown that began in December. By the three-week mark, most safety-net benefits were still being funded. But should the impasse drag on, that could change.

In my view, the added economic hardship brought on would highlight an enduring aspect of American public policy: Government benefits can be unreliable. They can be cut or eliminated arbitrarily….