Prisoner Re-entry

Administration aims to fight crime with job training, By Carrie Johnson and Lori Mack, September 20, 2016, National Public Radio: “The Labor Department will hand out $5 million in grants to fund job centers for people coming out of jails, part of a broader Obama administration initiative to help reduce recidivism, NPR has learned. ‘The earlier you start investing in people who are incarcerated, the better the odds of a successful outcome,’ Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in an interview…”

SNAP Enrollment – New Jersey

Food stamp use down in N.J., but not as much as the rest of the U.S., By Susan K. Livio, September 16, 2016, NJ.com: “Reliance on food stamps dropped by 3 percent in New Jersey since last summer – six months after tougher rules took effect that required adults without children to work to receive their benefits, according to state data. There were 430,000 households on food stamps or what has been renamed Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, a 3 percent decline from last summer, state Human Services data said. Salem, Somerset and Hunterdon counties saw the biggest caseload declines…”

American Community Survey

  • Wisconsin incomes up, poverty down, By Kevin Crowe and Bill Glauber, September 14, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Mirroring national figures, median income in Wisconsin grew for the first time in eight years, while poverty declined slightly in 2015, according to data released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, poverty kept a tight grip on the city of Milwaukee, which had the third-highest poverty rate among the 50 largest cities in the United States…”
  • Syracuse’s poverty rate remains among worst in nation, Census finds, By Mark Weiner, September 15, 2016, Syracuse Post-Standard: “One in two children in Syracuse lives in poverty in a city that now ranks as the 29th poorest in America, according to new data published today by the U.S. Census Bureau…”
  • Chicago area’s poverty rate declined in 2015 as incomes rose, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, September 15, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “The Chicago metro area had nearly 52,000 fewer people living in poverty in 2015 than it did the year before, following national trends as its poverty rate dropped and household incomes rose — though the economic improvements locally were not as vigorous as national averages…”
  • Ohio incomes increase, poverty decreases, Census Bureau reports, By Rich Exner, September 15, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Income is up in Ohio and poverty is down, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday, after reporting earlier this week the same trends nationally.  In Ohio, the median household income rose 3.5 percent to $51,075, a little below the national level for 2015. The change included an adjustment for inflation…”
  • Poverty falls as incomes rise in Colorado, but rent hikes outpace gains, By Aldo Svaldi, September 15, 2016, Denver Post: “Coloradans earned more money last year and continued to escape poverty in a significant way, but they also paid out much more in rent, according to an update Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau. ‘For the most part, these statistics tell a positive story about the Colorado economy,’ Broomfield economist Gary Horvath said…”
  • New Orleans poverty rates fall in 2015, still higher than state average, By Kevin Litten, September 15, 2016, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “The number of people living in poverty in New Orleans fell over the past year, according to U.S. Census data, although nearly a quarter of city residents are still poor.  The median income of families across the city grew, with a slight uptick in wage earnings occurring among black families. In 2015, they earned a median income of $26,819, up just over $1,000 from 2014, when it was $25,806…”
  • Florida incomes up a bit, poverty down a bit, but state lags country by a lot, By Andres Viglucci and Mary Ellen Klas, September 15, 2016, Miami Herald: “Floridians got a modest raise and poverty dropped slightly across the state last year, but Florida still lags the rest of the country in those key economic measures, new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show.  The figures paint a mixed picture for Florida and depict an uneven economic recovery across the nation…”

Health Insurance in the United States: 2015

  • Uninsurance rate drops to the lowest level since before the Great Recession, By Amy Goldstein, September 13, 2016, Washington Post: “About 4 million Americans gained health insurance last year, decreasing the nation’s uninsured rate to 9.1 percent, the lowest level since before the Great Recession, according to new federal figures.  The figures, released Tuesday from a large annual Census Bureau survey, show that the gains were driven primarily by an expansion of coverage among people buying individual policies, rather than getting health benefits through a job. This includes, but is not limited to, the kind of coverage sold on the insurance exchanges that began in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act…”
  • The striking difference between states that expanded Medicaid and the ones that didn’t, By Carolyn Y. Johnson, September 13, 2016, Washington Post: “The number of Americans without health insurance declined to 9.1 percent last year, according to federal data released Tuesday. A set of maps released by the Census Bureau suggests an obvious way to decrease the uninsured rate even more: expand Medicaid in the 19 states that haven’t…”

Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015

  • Median incomes are up and poverty rate is down, surprisingly strong census figures show, By Don Lee, September 13, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “The economic recovery is finally providing relief to America’s long-running problem of stagnant middle-class incomes.  The Census Bureau’s unexpectedly-rosy annual report on poverty and incomes, released Tuesday, showed the biggest improvement in decades on both fronts…”
  • Middle class incomes had their fastest growth on record last year, By Jim Tankersley, September 13, 2016, Washington Post: “Middle-class Americans and the poor enjoyed their best year of economic improvement in decades in 2015, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, a spike that broke a years-long streak of disappointment for American workers but did not fully repair the damage inflicted by the Great Recession…”
  • The middle class gets a big raise … finally!, By Tami Luhby, September 13, 2016, CNN Money: “After years of watching their incomes go nowhere, America’s middle class finally got a big raise last year.  Median household income rose to $56,516 in 2015, up 5.2% from a year earlier, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday. It marks the first increase in median income since 2007, the year before the Great Recession started…”
  • U.S. household income grew 5.2 percent in 2015, breaking pattern of stagnation, By Binyamin Appelbaum, September 13, 2016, New York Times: “Americans last year reaped the largest economic gains in nearly a generation as poverty fell, health insurance coverage spread and incomes rose sharply for households on every rung of the economic ladder, ending years of stagnation…”
  • Has the American economy hit a turning point?, By Deirdre Fernandes and Evan Horowitz, September 13, 2016, Boston Globe: “Middle-class Americans finally got a raise in 2015. And it was a big one.  After years of glacial economic growth and stagnant wages, median household income jumped 5 percent, or nearly $3,000, from 2014, according to data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. That’s the first meaningful increase since 2007 and the biggest bounce on record, offering fresh evidence that this economic recovery is now reaching a broader swath of American workers…”
  • Americans got raise last year for first time since 2007, By Christopher Rugaber and Jesse J. Holland (AP), September 13, 2016, Miami Herald: “In a long-awaited sign that middle-class Americans are finally seeing real economic gains, U.S. households got a raise last year after seven years of stagnant incomes. Rising pay also lifted the poorest households, cutting poverty by the sharpest amount in nearly a half-century…”
  • Things are getting a lot better for the working poor, By Max Ehrenfreund, September 13, 2016, Washington Post: “Last year marked the greatest improvement in the typical American family’s finances on record, according to a new annual report from the Census Bureau, especially for the working poor…”

SNAP Program and Online Shopping

  • Why SNAP benefits could be going digital, By Christina Beck, September 15, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Online shopping has long been a boon for most Americans, whether they hate the scrutinizing stares of fellow shoppers, the chaos of big stores, or simply can’t get out the door. Soon, modifications to the federal food stamp program, SNAP, might make the benefits of online shopping available to some who could need it most: the many recipients who live in areas where there are fewer healthy grocery stores, known as ‘food deserts…'”
  • Federal food stamp program to test online shopping for recipients, By Greg Trotter, September 15, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Starting next summer, Illinois residents on food stamps may be able to buy their groceries online through a two-year federal pilot program intended to increase food access for the poor.  Times, they are a’changin’, though faster for some than others. Online shopping has dramatically altered buying habits for most Americans in recent years, and now, the $75 billion federal food stamps program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is moving toward making that option available to the 43 million or so people across the country receiving benefits…”

School Funding – Connecticut

In Connecticut, a wealth gap divides neighboring schools, By Elizabeth A. Harris and Kristin Hussey, September 11, 2016, New York Times: “The two Connecticut school districts sit side by side along Long Island Sound. Both spend more than the national average on their students. They prepare their pupils for the same statewide tests. Their teachers, like virtually all the teachers in the state, earn the same high marks on evaluations.  That is where the similarities end: In Fairfield, a mostly white suburb where the median income is $120,000, 94 percent of students graduate from high school on time. In Bridgeport, the state’s most populous and one of its poorest cities, the graduation rate is 63 percent. Fifth graders in Bridgeport, where most people are black or Hispanic, often read at kindergarten level, one of their teachers recently testified during a trial over school funding inequities…”

Millennium Development Goals

Poorest countries hit hardest as world lags behind on global education goals, By Kate Hodal and Josh Holder, September 5, 2016, The Guardian: “The international community has not only failed to meet the education targets set out in the millennium development goals, it is also highly unlikely to meet the 2030 deadline for education laid out in the sustainable development agenda, with the poorest countries the hardest hit, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.  Unesco’s global education monitoring report 2016 shows that just 64 countries of the 157 tracked by the report met MDG 2, which called for every child in the world to receive a full course of primary school education by 2015…”

Teen Hunger in the US

  • 13 percent of U.S. reports household hunger. How do teens cope?, By Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, September 12, 2016, PBS NewsHour: “Teenagers as young as 13 all too often play an active role in feeding their families, many taking jobs when they can or selling their possessions to help raise money for food, researchers found in a detailed look at hunger among adolescents. In extreme cases, teens resorted to crime and sexual favors in exchange for nourishment.  Yet, according to the research, many cringed at the thought of using a local food bank…”
  • Some hungry teens turn to crime, sex for food, By Ryan W. Miller, September 13, 2016, USA Today: “Shoplifting, stealing and selling their bodies for sex. When hunger hits, some desperate teens in the U.S. are turning to extreme options to provide food for their families, says new research released Monday from Feeding America and the Urban Institute.  Two new reports, ‘Bringing Teens to the Table’ and ‘Impossible Choices,’ document how widespread hunger is afflicting American teenagers, a demographic often overlooked in conversations about food security. About one in five children under 18 — including 6.8 million youths ages 10 to 17 — live in a household with limited or uncertain access to food, the research shows…”
  • The hidden epidemic of teen hunger, By Laura Bliss, September 13, 2016, The Atlantic: “A few years back, Susan J. Popkin was investigating sexual-health interventions in public housing in Washington D.C. The veteran housing and poverty researcher got wind of stories from parents that some teenagers in the community were essentially trading sex for food. ‘We were stunned to hear it,’ she says.  The problem of child hunger is a vast one—one in five American children live in food-insecure households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But most of the resources and research are directed toward younger children; adolescents at the upper end of the age spectrum often get overlooked…”

Food Insecurity in the US

  • U.S. hunger risk rate falls to lowest since before recession, By Alan Bjerga, September 7, 2016, Bloomberg: “A measure used as a proxy for hunger in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest since before the Great Recession, the government said, as the number of Americans on food stamps remains high.  About 42.2 million Americans struggled to afford or obtain adequate nutrition at some point in 2015, a 12 percent drop from 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an annual survey released Wednesday…”
  • Number of hungry U.S. kids drops to lowest level since before Great Recession, By Pam Fessler, September 7, 2016, National Public Radio: “It’s rare to get good news when it comes to hunger. But the government says there was a big drop last year in the number of people in the country struggling to get enough to eat, especially children.  Overall, 15.8 million U.S. households, or 12.7 percent, experienced what the government calls ‘food insecurity’ at some point during 2015. That’s compared to about 17.4 million households — or 14 percent — in 2014, according to a new report by the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service…”

Summer Programs for Children

New evidence that summer programs can make a difference for poor children, By Emma Brown, September 7, 2016, Washington Post: “During their long, languid summers, lots of children forget the lessons they learned in school. But the hot empty months pose an especially big academic hurdle for poor children, whose families might not have time or money for camps or enrichment activities.  Now new research suggests that school districts can stave off the so-called summer slide by offering free, voluntary programs that mix reading and math instruction with sailing, arts and crafts and other summer staples. The research also shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that students have to attend the programs regularly to reap the benefits…”

 

Chronic School Absenteeism

  • Chronic absenteeism hinders students, By Annysa Johnson, September 6, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The overwhelming majority of U.S. school districts — urban, suburban and rural — experience some degree of chronic absenteeism that puts students at academic risk, according to a study released Tuesday.  But half of all chronically absent students are enrolled in 4% of the nation’s school districts and 12% of its schools, including many in Wisconsin. And it disproportionally affects students of color, those who are poor and those diagnosed with learning disabilities…”
  • The long-term consequences of missing school, By Mikhail Zinshteyn, September 6, 2016, The Atlantic: “The precocious teen who’s too cool for school—earning high marks despite skipping class—is a pop-culture standard, the idealized version of an effortless youth for whom success comes easy.  Too bad it’s largely a work of fiction that belies a much harsher reality: Missing just two days a month of school for any reason exposes kids to a cascade of academic setbacks, from lower reading and math scores in the third grade to higher risks of dropping out of high school, research suggests…”

Incarceration in Rural Areas

This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why?, By Josh Keller and Adam Pearce, September 2, 2016, New York Times: “Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.  If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.  But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison…”

Unbanked Households

More Americans come into the banking system, By Mitchell Hartman, September 9, 2016, Marketplace: “‘Unbanked’ is the term used by financial regulators and consumer advocates to describe people who live, work, pay bills and borrow for emergencies, entirely outside the traditional banking system. Being ‘unbanked’ can limit peoples’ access to affordable credit, and leave them vulnerable to predatory lending…”

Achievement Gap – Oregon

Oregon test scores Show persistent achievement gaps based on race, income, By Rob Manning, September 8, 2016, Oregon Public Broadcasting: “Standardized test scores released Thursday show Oregon students improved, but only by one percentage point, on average, compared to last year.  The Smarter Balanced exams continue to show enormous achievement gaps based on race…”

Health Insurance Coverage

  • The states with the biggest Obamacare struggles spent years undermining the law, By Noam N. Levy, September 7, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “As insurers exit Obamacare marketplaces across the country, critics of the Affordable Care Act have redoubled claims that the health law isn’t working.  Yet these same critics, many of them Republican politicians in red states, took steps over the last several years to undermine the 2010 law and fuel the current turmoil in their insurance markets…”
  • Obamacare pushes nation’s health uninsured rate to record low 8.6 percent, By Dan Mangan, September 7, 2016, CNBC: “Low enough for you yet?  The rate of Americans who lack health insurance has hit a record low — again — as a result of Obamacare.  In the first quarter of 2016, there were 8.6 percent of Americans — or about 27.3 million people — who were uninsured, the first time in history that the nation’s uninsured rate fell below 9 percent…”

Youth Unemployment – Chicago, IL

Chicago tackles youth unemployment as it wrestles with its consequences, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, September 1, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Margo Strotter, who runs a busy sandwich shop in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, makes it a point to hire people with ‘blemishes.’  But young people? She sighs and shakes her head.  They often lack ‘the fundamental stuff’ — arriving on time, ironing their shirts, communicating well, taking direction — she said. She doesn’t have time to train workers in the basics, and worries she’s not alone.  ‘We are going to wind up with a whole group of people in their 40s and 50s who can’t function,’ said Strotter, owner of Ain’t She Sweet Cafe.  As Chicago tackles what some have termed a crisis of youth joblessness, it must reckon with the consequences of a failure to invest in its low-income neighborhoods and the people who live there. There aren’t enough jobs, and the young people vying for them are frequently woefully unprepared because of gaps in their schooling and upbringing. The system has pushed them to the back of the hiring line…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Michigan

Court: Michigan stiffed deserving people out of food aid, By Tresa Baldas, August 26, 2016, Detroit Free Press: “Over and over again, the computer rejected their names — and automatically cut off their food stamps.  Walter Barry, a 46-year-old mentally disabled Detroit man who lives with his mother, lost his public assistance when his name turned up in a fugitive database: His brother had stolen his name and used it as an alias when he was arrested about 25 years ago.  Identity theft victim Donitha Copeland, a onetime homeless woman, lost her food benefits when her name showed up in the same database: There was an outstanding warrant for her arrest for writing bad checks in Kalamazoo, though she had never been there…”

Homelessness and Housing – Madison, WI

  • ‘We are failing’: Need overwhelms patchwork of homeless service providers, By Dean Mosiman and Doug Erickson, August 28, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “Death, for Roy and Cindy Jacobs, had become preferable to the grind of living on the streets from their 1983 Chevy van.  For months, since their lease was not renewed in the summer of 2015, they sought housing, chased meals, struggled to stay clean and find restrooms, saw degrading and illicit behavior, and engaged the elements as part of a small group of homeless living out of beaten vehicles parked on East Side streets.  By late March, the couple were on the verge of suicide, their despair unbearable by Easter morning. ‘Things were just out of control,’ Roy said. ‘We were right there. I even wrote a goodbye letter.’ That morning, they showed up early, as usual, for volunteer work at First United Methodist Church Downtown, which was providing a meal for the homeless later in the day…”
  • Shelter, at a cost: Madison’s outmoded homeless shelters can be dehumanizing, demoralizing, By Doug Erickson and Dean Mosiman, August 31, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “As Madison looks at potentially big changes to its homeless shelter system, its current hodgepodge of ill-suited, outdated drop-in sites has fallen far behind what experts recommend for shelters that promote dignity and contribute to a person’s recovery.  The shelters have long been considered deficient, their flaws readily acknowledged and bemoaned by those who run them.  None of the sites was built as a shelter. Homeless men sleep in church basements. The facility for single women and families is a former Catholic school.  In many areas, from the degree of privacy to the number of toilets and the amount of storage space, they come up short compared to facilities in other cities and models espoused in the field…”