Skills Gap and Inequality

Economist: Skills, tech gap can’t explain inequality, By Pedro Nicolaci Da Costa, October 20, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “Gaps in educational achievement and shifts in technology, often cited as key reasons for widening income and wealth inequality, do very little to explain the trend, said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington. Speaking Saturday at a conference on ‘Equality of Economic Opportunity’ hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Mr. Mishel criticized the event’s narrow focus on local actions to reduce inequality when other possible approaches lie in the realm of broader economic policy…”

Inequality and Social Mobility

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong, By Matt O’Brien, October 18, 2014, Washington Post: “America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others. That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on ‘enrichment activities’ for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents…”

Students and Internet Access

With no Internet at home, Miami-Dade kids crowd libraries for online homework, By Douglas Hanks, October 12, 2014, Miami Herald: “Once again, Christina Morua found herself in the South Dade library longer than she would like on a school night. The 28-year-old single mom sat in the bustling children’s section on a recent Thursday, waiting for her fourth-grader to get on a computer and start some online math homework. ‘We don’t have any Internet at home,’ Morua said as her oldest, 11-year-old Abel, clicked through an assignment on a library laptop while Alina, 9, waited for her turn at a desktop. ‘We just reserved a computer. We have to wait 70 minutes. He got one of the last laptops.’ With more school materials heading online, parents like Morua find they can no longer count on home for homework. That leaves Miami-Dade libraries as a crucial venue for their youngest patrons, but funding challenges, reduced hours on school nights and aging equipment have made it harder to meet the demand…”

Consumer Debt Loads

How debt loads are changing for young and old consumers, By Jonnelle Marte, October 8, 2014, Washington Post: “The kind of debt consumers take on is changing. And the changes look very different by age, according to a TransUnion report released Wednesday that looks at the shifting make up of consumer debt loads over time. Not surprisingly, younger consumers are seeing student loans crowd out most other types of loans, says Charlie Wise, vice president in TransUnion’s Innovative Solutions Group. For instance, student loans accounted for 36.8 percent of the total debt load for consumers ages 20 to 29 in 2014, up from the 12.9 percent reported in 2005…”

Achievement Gap – Wisconsin

Schools share best practices to close achievement gaps, By Erin Richards and Kelly Meyerhofer, September 25, 2014, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “In a move aimed at closing Wisconsin’s persistent achievement gaps — especially between white students and those of color — state Superintendent Tony Evers on Thursday announced a set of “what works” strategies collected from schools around the state. But the new report was only part of the message on achievement gaps that Evers wanted to get across in Madison on Thursday during his annual State of Education address. The more controversial part: Evers says Wisconsin’s predominantly white, middle-class teachers need to dramatically change what they’re doing to better help black and Hispanic children succeed…”

Student Homelessness in the US

  • Record number of homeless children enrolled in US public schools, By Amanda Paulson, September 23, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “A record number of homeless students were enrolled in US public schools last year, according to new numbers released Monday by the Department of Education. The data – which most experts say underreport the actual number of homeless children in America – showed that nearly 1.3 million homeless children and teens were enrolled in schools in the 2012-13 school year, an 8 percent increase from the previous school year…”
  • Record number of public school students nationwide are homeless, By Lyndsey Layton, September 22, 2014, Washington Post: “A record number of homeless children and teens were enrolled in public school last year, according to data released Monday by the federal government. Elementary and secondary schools reported that 1.3 million students were homeless during the 2012-2013 year, an 8 percent jump from the prior year. Most of those students — 75 percent — were living doubled up in the home of a friend or a relative, according to the government. Sixteen percent were living in homeless shelters, 6 percent in hotels or motels, and 3 percent had no shelter…”

Foster Youth and High School Graduation

Colorado foster care youth less likely to graduate than homeless kids, By Eric Gorski, September 14, 2014, Denver Post: “Each morning before school, Latisha Alvarado Barrington and her younger brother packed an extra set of clothes in their backpacks because they were unsure where they would sleep that night. Often, they would not want to go at all for fear of being taken again. Latisha guarded her identity as a foster child. She was fearful of the stigma as she bounced among a dozen placements, at times because her foster parents thought she was too much to handle. The despair of falling behind caused her to lay her head on the desk and think of school as pointless. Public officials and child advocates in Colorado have long known that students in foster care lag behind academically but have lacked the data to quantify it, a necessary step for finding solutions…”

State-Level Income Inequality

  • Income inequality last year rose in 15 states, By Niraj Chokshi, September 18, 2014, Washington Post: “The nation became more unequal last year. The Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, was higher, in a statistically significant way, in 2013 than in 2012, rising from 0.476 to 0.481, according to a new Census Bureau report. A score of zero suggests perfect equality where all households have equal income, while a score of one suggests perfect inequality, where one household has it all, and the rest have none. Alaska was the only state to see its Gini Index score decline…”
  • Income inequality is hurting state tax revenue, report says, By Josh Boak (AP), September 15, 2014, Washington Post: “Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments. The widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else has been matched by a slowdown in state tax revenue, according to a report being released Monday by Standard & Poor’s. Even as income has accelerated for the affluent, it has barely kept pace with inflation for most other people. That trend can mean a double whammy for states: The wealthy often manage to shield much of their income from taxes. And they tend to spend less of it than others do, thereby limiting sales tax revenue. As the growth of tax revenue has slowed, states have faced tensions over whether to raise taxes or cut spending to balance their budgets as required by law…”
  • Income inequality: States struggle to balance budgets as rich-poor gap widens, By Mark Trumbull, September 15, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “A widening gap in incomes between the rich and the middle class may be hitting US states where it hurts – making it harder for them to raise the tax revenue they need for balancing their budgets. This conclusion, reached in a report released Monday by Standard & Poor’s, comes at a time when states across America are still struggling to rebuild their revenue streams more than five years after the end of a historically deep recession…”

Inequality and the Education System

A simple equation: more education = more income, By Eduardo Porter, September 10, 2014, New York Times: “Imagine if the United States government taxed the nation’s one-percenters so that their post-tax share of the nation’s income remained at 10 percent, roughly where it was in 1979. If the excess money were distributed equally among the rest of the population, in 2012 every family below that very top tier would have gotten a $7,105 check. This is hardly trivial money. But it pales compared to the gap between the wages of a family of two college graduates and a family of high school graduates. Between 1979 and 2012, that gap grew by some $30,000, after inflation…”

Student Loan Debt and Black Students

It’s hardest for black students to get the financial benefits of college, By Natalie Kitroeff, September 2, 2014, Bloomberg BusinessWeek: “Black students rely more on student loans to pay for college than other racial groups and they’re less likely to pay off the debt, according to a study released today. The research was presented at a conference on higher education and minorities in Washington, D.C., hosted by the University of California, Los Angeles, Civil Rights Project. “Student debt today has a color,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the study’s lead author, at the conference. Most of the people who borrow for their education are white, Goldrick-Rab said, but a larger share of black students and are in debt than any other racial group…”

Baltimore Beginning School Study

What your 1st-grade life says about the rest of it, By Emily Badger, August 29, 2014, Washington Post: “In the beginning, when they knew just where to find everyone, they pulled the children out of their classrooms. They sat in any quiet corner of the schools they could claim: the sociologists from Johns Hopkins and, one at a time, the excitable first-graders. Monica Jaundoo, whose parents never made it past the eighth grade. Danté Washington, a boy with a temper and a dad who drank too much. Ed Klein, who came from a poor white part of town where his mother sold cocaine…”

Poor Students, Elite Colleges

Generation later, poor are still rare at elite colleges, By Richard Pérez-Peña, August 25, 2014, New York Times: “As the shaded quadrangles of the nation’s elite campuses stir to life for the start of the academic year, they remain bastions of privilege. Amid promises to admit more poor students, top colleges educate roughly the same percentage of them as they did a generation ago. This is despite the fact that there are many high school seniors from low-income homes with top grades and scores: twice the percentage in the general population as at elite colleges…”

Free School Lunch Eligibility – Kansas

Association says childhood poverty increase has led to more students eligible for free meals, By Celia Llopis-Jepsen, August 25, 2014, Topeka Capital-Journal: “The rising percentage of Kansas children who receive free or reduced-price lunches at school is a genuine trend linked to poverty, not a ploy to boost school funding, the Kansas Association of School Boards said Monday. In an eight-page report, the association’s researchers analyzed the increase in Kansas schools of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch based on family incomes…”

Inequality as felt by Women

Among the poor, women feel inequality more deeply, By Patricia Cohen, August 18, 2014, New York Times: “The attention paid to income and wealth inequality spurred by the French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling opus, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” comes with a caveat from some of its fans: What about women? The question may seem odd given that when it comes to wages, women have made far more progress than men over the past three decades. Since the 1980s, men without a college education have seen their real wages — after taking inflation into account — decline 5 to 25 percent. The lower the education level, the steeper the drop…”

Workforce Investment Act

Seeking new start, finding steep cost: Workforce investment act leaves many jobless and in debt, By Timothy Williams, August 17, 2014, New York Times: “When the financial crisis crippled the construction industry seven years ago, Joe DeGrella’s contracting company failed, leaving him looking for what he hoped would be the last job he would ever need. He took each step in line with the advice of the federal government: He met with an unemployment counselor who provided him with a list of job titles the Labor Department determined to be in high demand, he picked from among colleges that offered government-certified job-training courses…”

AP Test Support for Low-Income Students

U.S. Helps Bear Costs of Advanced Placement Tests for Low-Income Students, By Caroline Porter, August 12, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “The federal government said Tuesday that it provided $28.4 million in grants to 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, to offset the costs of giving advanced placement tests to low-income students. By helping high-school students earn college credits, the program is intended to improve college completion rates and better prepare students. The allotment helped cover more than 769,000 tests nationally in 2014, marking a 6% increase over the previous year, according to the Department of Education…”

Rural Poverty

How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town, By Lydia DePillis, August 7, 2014, Washington Post: “The town of Las Animas takes about five minutes to drive through when the one stoplight is blinking yellow, as usual. It’s easy to miss but hard to escape. Just ask Frank Martinez. Martinez doesn’t remember having a deprived childhood. His mom was a home care nurse and his dad was disabled from a workplace injury, but he and his five siblings always had what they needed, even if they didn’t wear the latest Nikes to school. That childhood was cut short, however, when he fathered his first child at 16, married another girl when he was 18, and had three more kids before she left and his grandparents took them in…”

Income Inequality

Income inequality and the ills behind it, By Eduardo Porter, July 29, 2014, New York Times: “Is it time to stop obsessing about inequality? Perhaps it was President Obama’s speech last December, calling the nation’s vast income gap ‘the defining challenge of our time.’ The American publication of the French economist Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ must have helped. Whatever the reason, suddenly inequality seems to be not only at the top of the liberal agenda, but in the thoughts of concerned American voters. Yet amid the denunciations of inequity as the major evil of our era, persistent voices — mostly but not exclusively from the political right — have been nibbling away at the concern over distribution . . .”

College Access and Inequality

College cost isn’t poor students’ big problem, By Christopher Flavelle, July 28, 2014, Bloomberg View: “To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting more kids from poor families into college, the key to moving up in an increasingly unequal society. In research published last year, a team of American and Canadian economists compared the connection between family income and college or university attendance in the two countries. . .”

Promise Zones

A new initiative from the Obama administration offers new hope to high poverty areas, By Amy McDonald, July 27, 2014, Deseret News: “Sara-Jane Smallwood had made her way to the top: a bachelor’s degree in Indian American studies, a master’s in public policy from Indiana University and a job on the Hill, working as a policy analyst for her U.S. senator. But Smallwood came from the bottom: a small town in Southeastern Oklahoma where more than 60 percent of the population lives below poverty. Her high school class of 35 people didn’t hold a 10-year reunion, because several class members had died, and many were in and out of prison. But even though hers was an anomalous story of success, she speaks of her hometown with love and pride. And in 2011, Smallwood — the descendant of a long line of influential Choctaw tribal leaders and the daughter of two school teachers — decided that of all the hard work she saw at the top, very little was reaching the bottom…”