Poverty and Brain Development

  • Being poor affects kids’ brains, study finds, By Maggie Fox, March 30, 2015, NBC News: “Children raised in poor households have clear differences in the physical structures of their brains compared to wealthier children, a new study finds.  Brain scans of 1,099 children and teenagers in nine major cities shows the poorer kids have less surface area of the brain. This is important because having more brain surface area is linked with intelligence…”
  • Brain development in children could be affected by poverty, study shows, By Ian Sample, March 30, 2015, The Guardian: “Brain scans of children and young adults have revealed that specific brain regions tend to be smaller in those from poorer backgrounds than those born into wealthier families.  The effects were most striking among the poorest families who took part in the study, where even modest changes in wages could have a significant impact on the structure of the children’s brains…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

Out of prison, out of work: Ex-inmates face struggles after release, By Rick Barrett, March 29, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Finding a job is hard enough these days, but finding one when you have a criminal record can be all but impossible.  James Daniels knows. After spending nearly three years in prison for a drug crime — possession of marijuana with intent to deliver — he was released March 31, 2012, only to learn that some potential employers couldn’t see past the felony…”

Medicaid Expansion and Diabetes Diagnosis

  • With expansion of Medicaid, some states are identifying more new diabetes cases, By Sabrina Tavernise, March 23, 2015, New York Times: “The number of new diabetes cases identified among poor Americans has surged in states that have embraced the Affordable Care Act, but not in those that have not, a new study has found, suggesting that the health care law may be helping thousands of people get earlier treatment for one of this country’s costliest medical conditions.  One in 10 Americans have diabetes, and nearly a third of cases have not been diagnosed. The disease takes a toll if it is caught too late, eventually causing heart attacks, blindness, kidney failure and leg and foot amputations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the disease accounts for $176 billion in medical costs annually. The poor and minorities are disproportionately affected…”
  • Diabetes study shows benefits of expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, By Noam N. Levey, March 23, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “Low-income patients with diabetes are getting better access to medical care in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act, suggests a new study that provides one of the first indications of the sweeping law’s health effects.  Residents of other states are at risk of being left behind.  The number of Medicaid patients with newly identified diabetes surged 23% in states that expanded their programs, an option provided by the law, but there was virtually no increase in states that declined to expand coverage, researchers found…”

Foster Care System – Arizona

  • As Arizona struggles to fix foster system, children suffer the consequences, By Rick Rojas, March 24, 2015, New York Times: “She was just 5 months old the first time she and her siblings were taken from a mother struggling with addiction and placed in the care of the state. At times, she was separated from her brothers and sisters. She received neither the glasses she needed, nor the orthopedic shoes, leaving her with a limp. Now 10, she has spent more than half her life in foster care, having been returned to her mother only to be removed again, a routine that has been repeated multiple times.  The girl, identified only by the initials B. K., is one of several child plaintiffs named in a lawsuit filed last month by two advocacy groups, which assert that Arizona pulls children from tumultuous family lives only to place them in more turbulent circumstances in the care of the state’s child welfare system. Although that system was overhauled last year, after the disclosure by a whistle-blower that more than 6,500 complaints about child neglect and mistreatment were reported but completely ignored, the lawsuit asserts that only negligible progress has been made…”
  • Foster-care plan for tribes filled with problems, By Kristen Hwang, March 21, 2015, Arizona Daily Star: “When the federal government opened foster-care assistance to Native American tribes in 2008, more than 80 expressed interest in the program.  By 2014, however, just 27 tribes had applied and only five had been approved for the federal program, their efforts hobbled by a lack of resources, inflexibility by federal bureaucrats and cultural insensitivity, according to a Government Accountability Office report…”

Kids Count Report – Colorado

Percent of Colorado kids in poverty down for first time since 2008, By Tom McGhee and Yesenia Robles, March 23, 2015, Denver Post: “For the first time since 2008, the percentage of Colorado children living in poverty decreased, but the recovery has been spotty, with minority kids and those in rural areas still facing the highest rates of child poverty, according to a new report.  ‘This is great news for Colorado,’ Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia said Monday at the unveiling of the annual Colorado Kids Count report. ‘But we know there are far too many children growing up in households where they don’t have the resources they need.’  The report measured poverty — defined as those living in households with income levels at, or below, $23,550 for a family of four — among children in 2013, the last year that statistics were available. It found that 17 percent of the state’s 1.2 million children lived in poverty…”

Tax Refund Anticipation Checks

More cash-strapped Americans turn to tax refund advances, By Hope Yen (AP), March 22, 2015, ABC News: “Cash-strapped Americans anxious for tax refunds are increasingly turning to payment advances, prepaid cards or other costly services when getting tax preparation help, according to new federal data raising concerns among regulators about whether consumers are fully informed about the fees.  Regulators are looking to increase oversight of preparers amid the rise in ‘refund anticipation checks,’ a type of cash advance especially popular among low-income families who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, the government’s $65 billion cash benefit program. The advances are being marketed as a way to get fast refunds or defer payment of tax preparation costs…”

Unemployment and Mental Health

For younger adults, unemployment may triple the risk of depression, By Karen Kaplan, March 19, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “Unemployment isn’t just bad for your bank account. It can also do serious damage to mental health – especially for younger adults who are just starting out in life, new research shows.  Nearly 12% of Americans between ages 18 and 25 were deemed to be depressed based on their answers to eight questions that were part of a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments. But within this age group, those who were unemployed were 3.17 times more likely to be depressed than their counterparts with jobs…”

SNAP and Employment

Illinois among states to test ways to send food stamp recipients to work, By Mary Clare Jalonick, March 20, 2015, Chicago Sun-Times: “Ten states will test new ways to get food stamp recipients back to work, using Agriculture Department grants aimed at helping some of the 46 million Americans who receive benefits move off the rolls.  The grants come as the Republican Congress is exploring ways to cut the program, which cost $74 billion last year — twice its cost in 2008. Some in the GOP have proposed stricter work requirements as a way to do that…”

Racial Income Gap

  • Minority families struggle to break out of poverty, study finds, By Tiffany Hsu, March 17, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “A generation from now, minority workers are expected to make up the majority of the American workforce. But today, their families are far more likely to be poor than their white counterparts, according to an analysis of Census data released Monday.  The study, by the Working Poor Families Project, showed that working poor families are three times more likely to be headed by a minority parent…”
  • Black and Latino working families are twice as likely as others to be low-income, By Michael A. Fletcher, March 16, 2015, Washington Post: “As the U.S. economy has picked up again after the recession, it’s become clear that some Americans are getting a bigger share of the recovery than others.  A new report released Monday by the Working Families Project, a national initiative that pushes state governments to adopt family friendly policies, shows that black and Hispanic working families are twice as likely as those headed by whites and Asians to be poor or low-income—a gap that has widened since the recession…”
  • Working Poor Families Project report highlights more disparities for Wisconsin minorities, By Pat Schneider, March 17, 2015, Capital Times: “Another report is delineating a stark racial and ethnic divide in Wisconsin, this one focusing on low-income working families. And without significant policy changes, the gap will continue to grow, affecting the long-term vitality of the economy, researchers predict.  The new report by the Working Poor Families Projectfound that  61 percent of minority working families in the state are low-income, compared to 22 percent of white working families who are low-income. Some 64 percent of all black working families fall into the low-income category, as do 72 percent of all Latino working families…”

Financial Opportunity Centers

Boston centers help low-income residents with budgeting, By Katie Johnson, March 20, 2015, Boston Globe: “Making money isn’t the problem for Adalziza Campbell. Managing it is.  Campbell works two jobs, as a hairdresser and a certified nursing assistant, but still can’t get ahead. She got turned down for a bank loan to buy a house and had to borrow from her dwindling savings account to pay her bills.  ‘I’m making money,’ she said. ‘Why don’t I have it?’  Like many people, Campbell, 35, of Charlestown, had never created a budget or tried to improve her credit score. But she has started learning these skills at the new Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment in Dudley Square, one of two such sites to open in October as part of the city’s new Office of Financial Empowerment…”

Top Colleges and Low-Income Students

Why many smart, low-income students don’t apply to elite schools, By Shereen Marisol Meraji, March 16, 2015, Minnesota Public Radio: “Right now, high school seniors across the country are trying hard not to think about what is — or isn’t — coming in the mail.  They’re anxiously awaiting acceptance letters (or the opposite) from their top-choice colleges and universities. But this story isn’t about them. It’s about a big group of seniors who could get into great schools but don’t apply: high-achieving students from low-income families who live outside of America’s big cities.  These students often wind up in community college or mediocre four-year schools. It’s a phenomenon known in education circles as ‘undermatching.’  Why does it happen..?”

Shelter and Housing for the Homeless

  • Tiny houses in Madison, Wis., offer affordable, cozy alternative to homelessness, By Jenna Ross, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “On his day off, Gene Cox rose with the sun, pulled a hood over his gray hair and started a pot of coffee.  Deep sleep was still new to him. His first night here, in late February, Cox awoke every two hours, looked around and realized that he was no longer living in his van — which, in cold months, required routinely waking to turn the key and blast the heat.  Cox now has a house. A tiny one. But all 98 square feet are his…”
  • With extended hours, Minneapolis shelters hope to reduce homelessness, By Marion Renault, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Dave Baker shares a bedroom with more than 60 other people, so he knows how precious a good night’s sleep can be. ‘The guy next to you could be snoring, he could be on the phone,’ said Baker, 48, who has been staying at the Higher Ground Shelter in Minneapolis for 14 months. ‘You may be up at 2, 3, 5 and 11 the night before. Any sleep you get in here is a benefit.’  Baker also knows what it’s like to wake up before the rest of the city, since Twin Cities homeless shelters have historically pushed residents out the door around 7 a.m. because of staff shortages or the need to prepare the space for its daytime use.  Now a $100,000 contract from Hennepin County has permitted two Minneapolis shelters — Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground and Simpson Housing Services — to extend their hours so that residents don’t have to depart at the crack of dawn.

Affordable Housing – Springfield, MO

Despite efforts of task force, Springfield becomes top metro area for poverty, By Stephen Herzog, March 14, 2015, Springfield News-Leader: “It’s difficult to pinpoint where Misty Middleton’s day begins and ends.  She works overnight, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., in the health care industry. ‘I check on a lady every two hours and reposition her,’ she said. ‘I get two or three, maybe four hours of sleep on a good night.’  She doesn’t sleep much at home. When she’s not on the clock, she’s either at nursing school, studying or coordinating meals and school for her five children. It’s a struggle, but she won’t quit, saying: ‘We have to get out of this place.’  She’s specifically talking about the family’s apartment, in a neighborhood with a bad reputation.  She could just as easily be referring to the never-ending fight to get out of poverty — a cyclical, tough and sometimes hopeless situation that more and more Springfield families now face…”

Cash Assistance and Work Requirements – Ohio

Ohio counties kick people off welfare to satisfy feds, By Josh Jarman, March 13, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “Threatened with the loss of millions of dollars in federal money because not enough of its welfare recipients were working, Franklin County did what many other counties across the state did: It kicked people off welfare.  Instead of helping more of Franklin County’s poorest residents find jobs in the years following the Great Recession, the county slashed the unemployed from its welfare caseload. That raised the percentage of the remaining participants who were working.  And that’s the only benchmark the federal government requires counties to meet to keep getting money…”

Court Fines and the Poor – Washington

Poor offenders must be asked if they can afford to pay fines, state Supreme Court says, By Mike Carter, March 12, 2015, Seattle Times: “The state Supreme Court, citing the burden imposed on poor defendants by uncollectable court fees and fines, has reiterated that judges must ask about a defendant’s ability to pay so-called ‘legal financial obligations’ (LFO), and not impose them if they can’t be paid.  The justices found the state’s LFO system ‘carries problematic consequences’ for poor offenders, can impede their ability to re-enter society and can contribute to recidivism.   The high court sent two cases back to Pierce County for resentencing based on findings that sentencing judges, at the prosecutor’s request, imposed costs, fees and fines of more than $3,300 in one instance and $2,200 in another without first determining whether either man could pay…”

Social Innovation Fund

Will private investors help pay for social services? Oregon projects seek to find out, By Amy Wang, March 12, 2015, The Oregonian: “Oregon Health & Science University, two counties and a Portland-based nonprofit will join a national initiative looking into whether it’s feasible to tap private investors to fund some social services.  The Oregon project, Pay for Prevention, will focus on preventing children and youth from entering the state’s child welfare and foster care systems…”

Foster Children and Antipsychotic Drug Prescriptions – California

California toughens stance on use of mind-altering antipsychotic drugs for poor children, foster youth, By Karen de Sá, March 12, 2015, Los Angeles Daily News: “State regulators are rejecting thousands of requests from California physicians to prescribe antipsychotic drugs to poor children and foster youth, a dramatic first step in the state’s new effort to curb the excessive prescribing of powerful mind-altering medications.  Nearly 1 in every 5 requests for the medications were denied in January because they were medically unnecessary or unsubstantiated. That is triple the rate of denials that occurred in October, when the state first began requiring an extra level of oversight, suggesting the scrutiny is growing tougher over time…”

School Funding

In 23 states, richer school districts get more local funding than poorer districts, By Emma Brown, March 12, 2015, Washington Post: “Children who live in poverty come to school at a disadvantage, arriving at their classrooms with far more intensive needs than their middle-class and affluent counterparts. Poor children also lag their peers, on average, on almost every measure of academic achievement.  But in 23 states, state and local governments are together spending less per pupil in the poorest school districts than they are in the most affluent school districts, according to federal data from fiscal year 2012, the most recent figures available…”

Upward Mobility

The numbers add up to this: Less and less opportunity for poor kids, By Marilyn Geewax, March 10, 2015, National Public Radio: “In this country, all children are supposed to have a shot at success — a chance to jump ‘from rags to riches’ in one generation.   Even if riches remain out of reach, then the belief has been that every hard-working American should be able to go from poverty to the middle class.  On Tuesday, a book and a separate study are being released — both turning up evidence that the one-generation leap is getting harder to accomplish in an economy so tied to education, technological know-how and networking…”