Eviction – Baltimore, MD

  • Dismissed: Low-income renters in Baltimore become migrants in their own city, By Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella, May 6, 2017, Baltimore Sun: “When the furnace in their West Baltimore rowhouse broke last winter, Denise and Marvin Jones did what they could to keep their family warm — and together. They filed a complaint against their landlord. They boiled pots of water and ran space heaters. They sent their four children to bed bundled in coats, hats and gloves. ‘I didn’t want to separate them,’ Denise said, crying. But ‘it was so cold.’ The family split up in January, fanning out to the heated homes of different relatives across the city even as they continued to pay the $950 monthly rent at their own cold home. They sometimes checked in to motels just to spend a few nights together. But as temperatures rose with the coming of spring, so did their spirits. After five months, their complaint was advancing in Baltimore District Court. And Marvin had located a new home…”
  • Evictions perpetuate Baltimore’s cycle of poverty, Editorial, May 8, 2017, Baltimore Sun: “Evictions are devastating for the families who go through them. The process is all-consuming. Low-income tenants spend hours going to court to plead their cases or begging family, friends and social service agencies for help. They lose time at work, and an already precarious financial situation becomes worse. They live in anxiety about every knock on the door, wondering whether it might be a property agent or sheriff’s deputies ready to dump all their belongings onto the street. And if the worst comes, they may find themselves suddenly homeless, struggling to keep the family together, desperate to provide any sense of normalcy for their children as they are torn away from neighborhoods and schools…”

Safety Net Programs for Poor Families

  • The end of welfare as we know it, By Alana Semuels, April 1, 2016, The Atlantic: “By the numbers, welfare reform was a success. More than 13 million people received cash assistance from the government in 1995, before the law was passed. Today, just 3 million do. ‘Simply put, welfare reform worked because we all worked together,’ Bill Clinton, who signed into law welfare reform, or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times in 2006. Clinton had campaigned on a pledge to ‘end welfare as we know it’ and today it is all too apparent that he succeeded…”
  • Welfare time limits save Michigan millions, but cost 32,090 families, By Emily Lawler, April 5, 2016, MLive: “Since Michigan enacted sweeping welfare changes nearly five years ago, more than $62 million has been saved. But for 32,090 families, those savings means they can never get cash assistance, even in the most dire of emergencies. In 2011, Michigan’s legislature tightened and started enforcing time limits on cash assistance, or what the state calls its Family Independence Program. The move was swift…”
  • Maine’s welfare policies have taken a turn, with dire consequences for kids, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, March 8, 2016, Bangor Daily News: “Changes in public policy motivated by politics, not facts, have been disastrous for Maine children. Since Congress passed ‘welfare reform’ 20 years ago, it has become increasingly clear that many of these so-called reforms have failed, leaving many parents and children in deeper poverty without sustainable employment. Many of these policies simply were not based in the realities of people’s lives and ignore the economic environment people are living in. They are unsupported by social science research or evidence and have left far too many families and children behind…”
  • Stripping D.C.’s poor families of their last income source, By Judith Sandalow, March 11, 2016, Washington Post: “Winter snowstorms send most parents into panic mode. When my boys were young, I remember doing the calculations. Are schools closed? Can I find someone to watch them? It’s even more of a burden for families struggling to make ends meet. Their list of questions grows more urgent. If I miss my shift at work, will I get fired? Is there enough food in the house to feed the kids? How are we going to stay warm when the heat’s been turned off..?”
  • Legislature battles over poverty – but agreement possible, By Matthew Albright, April 5, 2016, News Journal: “When DuPont Co. came calling, it took the General Assembly only days to pass a pair of corporate tax breaks worth tens of millions of dollars. But after Democrats and Republicans alike sprinted to protect high-end research and management jobs, lawmakers are now deliberating on how to help those on the opposite end of the income ladder – those languishing in poverty. Some of that discussion has already bogged down in familiar partisan battlefields, like debates over the minimum wage and the size and scope of a taxpayer-funded safety net…”

Children’s Medicaid Coverage – California

  • Medi-Cal’s growing pains felt acutely by children, By Barbara Feder Ostrov, February 28, 2015, Santa Cruz Sentinel: “The massive expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income residents, was intended to bring relief to working-class families in need of care. But it was hard on families like Diana Vega’s.  Vega, an elementary schoolteacher in San Pablo, appreciates the low premiums and that her three kids were able to keep the same pediatrician they had when they were under the now-defunct Healthy Families, another publicly funded insurance program. But Vega had trouble restoring therapy services for her son, diagnosed with autism and Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic condition that weakens muscles. And she also was taken aback by how much more difficult it was to get eyeglasses and dental care…”
  • Overdue for checkups: Denti-Cal program for low-income kids, Editorial, March 8, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “Fewer than half the low-income kids enrolled in California’s dental insurance program see a dentist in any given year. That seems like a problem. Whether it is, though, is impossible to tell because of the state’s inadequate oversight of the program, known as Denti-Cal. According to a recent audit, the state doesn’t collect the data necessary to determine whether the kids who need care can get it. The state should start measuring the performance of Denti-Cal as if it really cares how well it’s working…”

Bangor Daily News ‘People Next Door’ Series

Living in a house of cards: A look back at people in Maine who are just scraping by, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, January 30, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “Ramon Perez works full-time at a job to which he walks the 2 miles since he doesn’t have a car. Still, his family of four in Augusta struggles to make ends meet. Helen, 45, works seven days a week caring for people with chronic health conditions but lacks health insurance herself. Wendall Hall of Milo, who recently lost his wife of several decades to heart and lung disease and then became guardian for his nine-year-old grandson, struggles to keep them fed and properly housed. Robert fled his native Angola and came to Maine to escape torture and death. He speaks nine languages and is fluent in English. With his wife and children, he expects to contribute to his community, but first he needs a job. Emergency funding through General Assistance enables them to stay afloat to give them that chance to succeed. For the past 18 months, we have profiled individuals and families struggling to make ends meet in Maine. These are people we know, who live in our communities, sometimes next door to us. We often mistakenly think they’re doing OK when in fact they are not…”

Foster Care System – Arizona

  • Lawsuit: Arizona’s neglect of foster kids shocking, By Mary Jo Pitzi, February 4, 2015, Arizona Republic: “Arizona’s neglect of children in foster care ‘shocks the conscience’ and amounts to official apathy toward the plight of nearly 17,000 children, a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court alleges. ‘It is time that someone gives voice to the thousands of children in foster care who have no say about where they live, where their siblings go, or what happens in their future,’ Kris Jacober, president of the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents, said in a statement accompanying the suit…”
  • Don’t let foster-care lawsuit get us off track, Editorial, February 4, 2015, Arizona Republic: “It’s hard to be dispassionate after reading the stories that led to a class-action lawsuit against the state on behalf of nearly 17,000 children in foster care. Sobs or howls of anger come more easily. The lawsuit uses the state’s own data to show how children often remain in limbo after being shunted around multiple placements, separated from siblings and denied medical, dental, behavioral and mental-health treatment…”

Localizing Minimum Wages

A minimum wage that makes more sense, By Jared Bernstein, June 27, 2014, New York Times: “Travel around this country a bit and, assuming your purchases are not confined to airports and big hotel chains, you will find that prices vary a great deal. Prices in New York State are 15 percent above the national average, while those in Arkansas are 12 percent below average. Housing is about twice as costly in Massachusetts as in Mississippi. These estimates arrive courtesy of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ regional price parities, or R.P.P.s. The much better known Consumer Price Index, or C.P.I., tells us how national prices change over time. The R.P.P.s tell us how prices differ at a particular time across the country. . .”

Childhood Obesity – South Carolina

SC needs more action on obesity, August 26, 2013, Greenville Online: “South Carolina is moving backward in its fight against childhood obesity, at least according to one set of data that was recently released. The information suggests that more effort is needed to encourage healthier diets and more exercise for children — especially children in low-income families.In the four years from 2009 to 2012, the percentage of South Carolina children between 2 and 4 years old in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children who are obese increased to 15.6 percent from 13.3 percent. It was a higher increase than any of 40 states included in a study of WIC…”

Limits on SNAP Food Choices

SNAP judgments: Should junk food be off-limits for food stamp recipients?, By Jane Black, August 26, 2013, Buffalo News:”Last winter, a delegation of high-profile nutritionists made the rounds of Washington lawmakers to discuss ways to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. One of their proposals: Could SNAP explore limiting the types of food that recipients can buy with their federal benefits? A state or city might ban chips or cookies, or, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed in 2010, soda and other sugary beverages. Such a move could nudge food stamp recipients toward healthier choices, and in any case, the federal government should not be subsidizing junk food. A decent suggestion, worthy of debate, right? Legislators’ response was uniformly supportive, recalls Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. But there was one catch: “One after another, Democrats and Republicans all said exactly the same thing. ‘You have to get the anti-hunger groups on your side. Until they are willing to support this, it’s not going to happen. Period.’ ”But anti-hunger organizations were most certainly not on board…”

Youth Unemployment

The idled young Americans, By David Leonhardt, May 3, 2013, New York Times: “The idle young European, stranded without work by the Continent’s dysfunction, is one of the global economy’s stock characters. Yet it might be time to add another, even more common protagonist: the idle young American. For all of Europe’s troubles — a left-right combination of sclerotic labor markets and austerity — the United States has quietly surpassed much of Europe in the percentage of young adults without jobs. It’s not just Europe, either. Over the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest…”

Editorials: Census Poverty Report

  • A snapshot of poverty in the U.S., Editorial, September 16, 2012, Los Angeles Times: “A new Census Bureau report confirms that the slowly rising tide of the U.S. economy hasn’t lifted all boats. The 20% of Americans with the highest incomes captured an even larger share of the earnings in 2011, while the rest collected the same share or less. The widening income inequality is disturbing, but as the report shows, things could have been considerably worse. Without such safety net programs as unemployment benefits and food stamps, millions more families would have fallen into poverty…”
  • Census data confirm that the middle class is in dire shape, Editorial, September 16, 2012, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The Census Bureau reported last week that middle-class income is continuing to shrink, top-tier incomes are growing and those at the bottom remained about the same. It wasn’t shocking news, confirming what dozens of independent studies have shown. What does come as a surprise is what politicians regard as middle income. On Friday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said ‘middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.’ That’s about where President Barack Obama has drawn the line, too. He wants to raise the income tax rate on ‘the wealthy’ who earn more than that. A better place to begin the discussion is at true middle income, where half earn more and half earn less. The Census Bureau puts median household income for 2011, adjusted for inflation, at $50,054. That’s down $780 in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2010…”
  • Census shows middle-class squeeze, By Dale McFeatters, September 17, 2012, Detroit News: “It’s a rare government economic report that brings no comfort to either side in a presidential election campaign. But such was the case with a U.S. Census Bureau report this week showing that from 2010 to 2011 income inequality increased 1.6 percent, the biggest one-year increase in 20 years, reflecting a long-term trend that now sees 50 percent of all income nationwide going to the top 20 percent of households…”

Poverty and Tropical Diseases

Tropical diseases: The new plague of poverty, By Peter J. Hotez, August 18, 2012, New York Times: “In the United States, 2.8 million children are living in households with incomes of less than $2 per person per day, a benchmark more often applied to developing countries. An additional 20 million Americans live in extreme poverty. In the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, poverty rates are near 20 percent. In some of the poorer counties of Texas, where I live, rates often approach 30 percent. In these places, the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, ranks as high as in some sub-Saharan African countries. Poverty takes many tolls, but in the United States, one of the most tragic has been its tight link with a group of infections known as the neglected tropical diseases, which we ordinarily think of as confined to developing countries…”

Politics and Poverty

  • Food stamp recipients to critics: Walk in our shoes, By Jesse Washington (AP), January 20, 2012, Charlotte Observer: “Some have advanced degrees and remember middle-class lives. Some work selling lingerie or building websites. They are white, black and Hispanic; young and old; homeowners and homeless. What they have in common: They’re all on food stamps. As the food stamp program has become an issue in the Republican presidential primary, with candidates seeking to tie President Barack Obama to the program’s record numbers, The Associated Press interviewed recipients across the country and found many who wished critics would spend some time in their shoes. Most said they never expected to need food stamps, but the Great Recession, which wiped out millions of jobs, left them no choice. Some struggled with the idea of taking a handout; others saw it as their due, earned through years of working steady jobs. They yearn to get back to receiving a paycheck that will make food stamps unnecessary…”
  • The Americans no one wants to talk about, By Michael Gerson, January 19, 2012, Washington Post: “It is an achievement of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements to have raised large issues of economic freedom and economic inequality. It is a paradox that their arguments have generally been vague, ideological and unhelpful. Elements on the right reject the whole ideal of distributive justice – opposing most taxation as theft and embracing a utopian project involving the abolition of the modern state. Elements on the left seek a substitute for capitalism – a utopian project that has been tried and found frightening. The political debates on free markets or the privileges of the 1 percent seldom touch on the actual struggles of citizens – say, living in the shadow of foreclosure, or attending a failing school, or surviving in a gang-occupied neighborhood. Ideology is abstract. Hardship is lived concretely. I like a good political philosophic debate as much as the next columnist. Give me a soy latte and a libertarian, and I’m set for the night. Ideas do have consequences. But many Americans are being overlooked in this bipartisan conspiracy of economic abstraction. A significant and growing portion of the population lives in poverty…”
  • GOP presidential candidates wade into politically tricky territory of food stamp spending, By Associated Press, January 9, 2012, Washington Post: “Politicians normally shy away from saying they want to cut food stamps, but this year’s Republican presidential candidates are using domestic food aid as an example of a welfare state gone awry. Supporters of the program say it is one of the most reliable safety nets for families who suddenly find themselves unable to pay for food, and politically the program has proved almost untouchable over many decades. More than 45 million people received the benefit last year at a $75 billion cost to the government, a record number as the economy has flailed. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and fellow contender Rick Santorum, both heavily involved in congressional welfare reform efforts in the mid-1990s, say the government should stop promoting a welfare-like state and convert food stamp spending to block grants to states, a move that could freeze spending and cut the benefit to many who now receive it. A spokesperson for Republican Mitt Romney says the former Massachusetts governor also supports turning the nation’s food stamp program into state block grants, though he rarely mentions it…”

Poverty Measurement in the US and Canada

  • The Near Poor: Many educated, employed Americans struggle to make ends meet, By Elizabeth Stuart, November 30, 2011, Deseret News: “Federal poverty statistics may not paint an accurate picture of how Americans are getting along economically, two new studies suggest. About 45 percent of U.S. residents who are not considered poor by federal standards don’t have enough money for basic expenses like housing, food and health care, according to a new study by the advocacy group Wider Opportunities for Women. And the number of people hovering just above the federal poverty threshold is 76 percent higher than official records indicate, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data published in the New York Times…”
  • In U.S., Canada, new measures of the poverty line, By Miles Corak, November 28, 2011, Globe and Mail: “U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Rebecca Blank — a capable, no-nonsense, PhD in economics, and a former Dean at the University of Michigan — to his new administration, and told her to answer a simple question: How should the United States measure poverty? Blank did an end-run around the sad politics that has characterized discussions of poverty measurement in the U.S. by having the Census Bureau develop an entirely new indicator that reflects the realities of participating in contemporary American society…”

State Earned Income Tax Credits

  • Malloy touts new tax credit, By JC Reindl, November 23, 2011, The Day: “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday joined Democratic lawmakers and social services advocates to herald the implementation of Connecticut’s new Earned Income Tax Credit for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. The credit was included in the governor’s biennial budget plan that passed the General Assembly this spring. The cost to the state is a projected $110 million this fiscal year. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia now offer some type of earned income tax credit. Under Connecticut’s program, the approximately 190,000 state households that are eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit will receive an additional credit equal to 30 percent of the federal one…”
  • Taxing the working poor back to starting line, Editorial, November 20, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “As much as younger pensioners may howl about the state income taxes they’ll have to pay come Jan. 1, the hardest hit group of people who file income tax forms may be the poorest — workers whose wages barely bring their families up to the poverty level. That’s because the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit will drop from 20% of the federal payment to 6%. Although this is better than nothing — which, in fact, was what Michigan had until three years ago — it will return the state to the unwelcome status of taxing some people back into poverty…”

Supplemental Poverty Measure

  • Poverty’s new faces: Where to draw the line?, By Rick Montgomery, November 12, 2011, Kansas City Star: “For nearly half a century, the U.S. government has based poverty levels on a simple formula that nearly all experts consider outdated: Calculate the lowest annual cost of keeping a family fed, then multiply by three to cover other basic needs. For the new poor – such as Amber Vieux, 28, who once earned $19 an hour – grocery bills often aren’t the main problem. Her son won’t go hungry, she’ll make sure of that. What has thrown the nursing student into the assistance line, a place Vieux never imagined being, are the other bills: Day care for her 4-year-old, $575 a month. Mandatory health premiums to study and work part-time at KU Med Center, $350 for half a year. Car payment, fuel and insurance, $600 a month or more. The rent. Utilities. Internet access and her cellphone plan, without which she’d be isolated from the modern world…”
  • New Poverty Measure: More accurate account of income and benefits still shows growing need, Editorial, November 13, 2011, Syracuse Post-Standard: “For years, economists and others have been arguing that the way the nation counts its poor is outdated. For one thing, the measure put in place in the 1960s overemphasizes the cost of feeding the average family, which has shrunk from one-third to one-seventh of household resources. For another, while the old measure factors in welfare payments, it doesn’t take into account more widely used ‘safety net’ programs like food stamps that aim to rescue many families from the cruelest burdens of poverty. This year, for the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau has adopted a ‘Supplemental Poverty Measure’ that takes into account those safety net programs. It doesn’t replace the ‘official’ poverty measure – that’s still needed to determine safety net eligibility – but it paints a more realistic portrait of poverty in America…”
  • Editorial: New data offer a fuller picture of life for America’s poor, Editorial, November 9, 2011, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The flaws built into the Census Bureau’s official estimates of poverty in the United States never have been a secret. Specialists in the economics of poverty – non-profit service organizations, public service officials, academics, statisticians, even the Census Bureau itself – recognized the inadequacies of the oversimplified estimates almost from the moment they were developed in the 1960s. But on Monday, the bureau released a report describing a new Supplemental Poverty Measure that addresses many of the longstanding imperfections in the official estimates…”
  • Measuring poverty, Editorial, November 12, 2011, Boston Herald: “The Census Bureau has worked up a new measure of poverty that for the first time takes into account facts in the real world – today’s world particularly. Now we can only hope it will improve official decision-making and public discussion. The official measure, which still will be used and is incorporated in scores of federal laws, was produced in 1964 to measure progress in President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty.’ An economist in the Social Security Administration noted that the Agriculture Department estimated that families of three or more spent one-third of their income on food, so therefore, the poverty level for those families was set at three times their food expenses. It’s been adjusted for inflation but not otherwise changed, even though families now spend about a seventh of their income of food…”

Young Men’s Initiative – New York City

  • Bloomberg to use own funds in plan to aid minority youth, By Michael Barbaro and Fernanda Santos, August 3, 2011, New York Times: “The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a blunt acknowledgment that thousands of young black and Latino men are cut off from New York’s civic, educational and economic life, plans to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances. The program, the most ambitious policy push of Mr. Bloomberg’s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed…”
  • Can George Soros, Michael Bloomberg save New York’s troubled young men?, By Ron Scherer, August 4, 2011, Christian Science Monitor: “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to improve the lives of young black and Hispanic males. On Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg announced that the city, combined with his own philanthropy and that of billionaire George Soros, would spend $127.5 million over three years to try to cut down on some of the factors that result in higher rates of poverty, incarceration, and unemployment among young minority men…”
  • A hand up, not a handout, for young black and Latino men, Editorial, August 4, 2011, Christian Science Monitor: “Blacks and Latinos took the brunt of America’s Great Recession. Their wealth gap with whites is now at a record high. And with large cutbacks in government social programs, there’s a greater need than ever for private giving to help these two groups. That’s the reasoning behind a $130 million initiative in New York City by two billionaires, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and financier George Soros, to target young male minorities with innovative approaches to helping them succeed – as workers and as fathers. Each man is giving $30 million to the public-private project. (Mr. Soros already funds many such programs in other cities.) Known as the Young Men’s Initiative, the three-year project is just the latest of dozens of programs started in recent years to focus on young African-American and Latino males – groups with dreadful rates of poverty, education, and employment…”

Premature Birth and Infant Mortality

  • Is stress to blame for preterm births?, By Mark Johnson and Tia Ghose, April 16, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “A tight, persistent pain in the lower abdomen chased Jasmine Zapata from class that morning, forcing her upstairs to rest on a couch at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. It was Sept. 20, and Zapata was in her 25th week of pregnancy, just past the midpoint. She neither smoked nor drank. She knew the importance of proper prenatal care – of course she did – and had followed the doctor’s orders to the letter. Zapata, after all, was in her second year of medical school. The 23-year-old Milwaukee native had carried her first pregnancy to term and had a beautiful son to show for it: MJ, now 18 months old. At her last doctor visit the week before, all had been fine. But on this morning when Zapata rose from the couch and went into the bathroom, she saw she was bleeding. By the time the ambulance got to the hospital, she was completely dilated and in fear for her baby daughter. ‘When they were doing an ultrasound, I was mentally preparing myself,’ Zapata said. ‘What if they tell me she’s dead?’ Educated, married, with no chronic illnesses or family history of prematurity, Zapata was not, in most respects, a high risk for premature delivery, the No. 1 cause of infant mortality in Milwaukee. Only one factor suggested risk: Zapata is African-American…”
  • Understanding the risks, Editorial, April 16, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “African-American babies in Milwaukee are dying before their first birthday at more than twice the rate of white infants. This tragic trend line has widened despite years of effort. Poverty, unhealthy environments, lack of prenatal care, smoking or drinking alcohol and chronic diseases such as diabetes all play a role. But researchers now believe that something else is behind these cruel numbers: the accumulated stress of a life lived as a racial minority. This insight argues for approaches that help black women understand the multiple risks they face and that give them tools to cope with these risks. Milwaukee’s black infant mortality rate was 15.7 deaths per 1,000 live births between 2005 and 2008, one of the worst rates in the country and double the rate for white babies…”

Microfinance in India

  • Microfinance struggles to restore its reputation, By Erika Kinetz (AP), March 7, 2011, Boston Globe: “Long heralded as a way to lift the downtrodden out of poverty, microfinance is under a cloud. The stories of lives being changed by a $27 microloan and picture perfect scenes of smiling women with colorful handlooms, empowered by affordable credit, have been replaced by headlines about borrowers driven to suicide. At best, microfinance seems to be failing to achieve its most noble goal: poverty alleviation. At worst, some lenders are contributing to a cycle of indebtedness and abuse, just like the loan sharks they sought to replace. Critics say the industry has grown too quickly for its own good, with too much rapaciousness and too little regulation. That has fostered a breakdown in lending discipline, with multiple loans to overextended borrowers, and allowed some unscrupulous players to thrive…”
  • India’s poor need help to help themselves, By Sarika Bansal, March 7, 2011, The Guardian: “Until recently, microfinance has been the golden child of international development. Microfinance companies would lend small amounts of money to poor women who would, in the ideal scenario, use them to start small businesses. Their interest rates were typically lower than loan sharks’ but still high enough to make a profit. Around the world, development experts believed microfinance was an ideal way to alleviate poverty, a smart way to ‘do good’ while also ‘doing well’. How times have changed. In the last few months, many people have become newly critical. In November, politicians in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh started making bold claims about how microfinance’s crushing interest rates and strongman tactics were, among other things, leading to suicide among over-indebted borrowers…”

Infant Mortality Rate – Milwaukee, WI

  • For Milwaukee’s children, an early grave, By Crocker Stephenson, January 22, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “On a bitter January afternoon, a 22-year-old mother sits on the edge of her bed and feeds her infant daughter. The child, Rashyia, born in December, is healthy. She coos, eyes closed. She touches her mother’s cheek with her perfect hand. Rashyia and her mother, Lakisha Stinson, live in a small attic apartment on Milwaukee’s near north side. Three modest rooms. The kitchen has just three chairs and a table that is missing its glass top. The living room has no furniture. The bedroom has a bed and a Pack ‘n Play crib, a gift from Wheaton Franciscan-St. Joseph’s Hospital, whose staff, nurses and doctors brought Rashyia through a high-risk pregnancy and into the world. Rashyia and her mother live in a neighborhood where the rate at which African-American babies, such as Rashyia, die during their first year of life is worse than Botswana. Public health experts have long considered the infant mortality rate to be an essential indicator of a community’s well-being…”
  • It takes a community to keep babies alive, Editorial, January 22, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Milwaukee’s littlest children are dying at appalling rates – rates that are among the worst in the country; rates that rival the world’s poorest nations. These are babies who never live to blow out their first birthday candle – three-quarters of them dead before they are a month old. They are babies such as the little boy born prematurely to Denelle McManus in January 2007. Denelle was in good health; she had good prenatal care; she didn’t smoke or drink. She was 32 years old when she lost her child. The boy, named Tavion, lived eight days before dying of a heart condition. Denelle’s mother, Patricia McManus, is chief executive of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin. An expert in urban issues, McManus has worked 30 years to reduce Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate and now believes that it will take a communitywide effort to save these children, an effort that is beginning to take shape with McManus as one of the leaders…”

Opinions: Poverty Measurement

  • Poverty and recovery, Editorial, January 19, 2011, New York Times: “In 2008, the first year of the Great Recession, the number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.7 million to nearly 47.5 million. While hugely painful, that rise wasn’t surprising given the unraveling economy. What is surprising is that recent census data show that those poverty numbers held steady in 2009, even though job loss worsened significantly that year. Clearly, the sheer scale of poverty – 15.7 percent of the country’s population – is unacceptable. But to keep millions more Americans from falling into poverty during a deep recession is a genuine accomplishment that holds a vital lesson: the safety net, fortified by stimulus, staved off an even more damaging crisis…”
  • Where does the poverty line truly lie?, By Andrew Chambers, January 19, 2011, The Guardian: “Thailand is a development success story. The country is on target to meet or exceed all its millennium development goals (MDGs), and absolute poverty ($1 a day) is now less than 2%. However, do these statistics accurately measure what poverty is, and what is the next step in poverty reduction for middle-income countries like Thailand? How to define and measure poverty, therefore, is not just a dry academic debate, as these decisions greatly affect what policies are pursued…”