Inequality: Life Expectancy and Birthweights

This first chart on inequality will break your heart. The second will give you hope. By Zachary Goldfarb, July 21, 2014, Washington Post: “Look at this chart, and weep. It compares the life expectancy of women at the bottom of the income ladder to those at the top. Birth certificates do not record information about income, but researchers use race and educational status as proxies. In 1990, the life expectancy of a woman who never completes high school was 77.7 years. The life expectancy of a woman who completes college was 80 years. That makes for a difference of 2.3 years. By 2010, despite all the advances in medicine, the woman who never completes high school is expected to die sooner, at 77.3 years of age. But the woman who completes college is expected to live much longer, to 83.9 years of age. . .”

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

  • House passes job-training bill, clearing for Obama, By Derek Wallbank, July 9, 2014, BloombergLawmakers criticized for a lack of productivity hailed an adult education and job training bill the U.S. House passed yesterday as evidence that Congress can get something done. The bill, which the House cleared for President Barack Obama’s signature on a 415-6 vote, authorizes $58 billion over six years for federal workforce development programs. It eliminates 15 programs still on the books, though most had become dormant in recent years. House lawmakers passed an earlier version of H.R. 803 last year. The Senate, after months of negotiations, passed an amended version in June. . .”
  • Congress is finally doing something about long term unemployment, By Danielle Kurtzelben, July 10, 2014, Vox: “Job training plays a curious role in American politics. On the one hand, nothing is less controversial than calls for a better-skilled workforce. On the other hand, over the years federal training initiatives have attracted a — somewhat deserved — reputation as a backwater of inefficient spending and unaccountable programs. But on Wednesday the notoriously unproductive Congress has passed a compromise Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It’s a revamping of the Workforce Investment Act, the Labor Department’s main job training initiative. . .”

Promise Zones

Programs target poverty in Obama’s 5 ‘Promise Zones’, By NPR Staff, July 6, 2014, NPR: Five areas across the country have been designated as ‘Promise Zones’ by the federal government. These zones, announced by President Obama in January, are intended to tackle poverty by focusing on individual urban neighborhoods and rural areas. In the five Promise Zones — located in Philadelphia, San Antonio, southeastern Kentucky, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Los Angeles — the idea is to basically carpet-bomb the neighborhoods with programs like after-school classes, GED courses and job training to turn those areas around. . .”

Income Inequality and the Middle Class

With Democrats split on inequality issues, Obama shifts talk away from income gap, By Zachary Goldfarb, July 4, 2014, Washington Post: “After making fighting income inequality an early focus of his second term, President Obama has largely abandoned talk of the subject this election year in a move that highlights the emerging debate within the Democratic Party over economic populism and its limits. During the first half of this year, Obama shifted from income inequality to the more politically palatable theme of lifting the middle class, focusing on issues such as the minimum wage and the gender pay gap that are thought to resonate with a broader group of voters. The pivot is striking for a president who identified inequality as one of his top concerns after his reelection, calling it “a fundamental threat to the American Dream. . .”

Wage Inequality – OECD

OECD: Wage inequality will only get worse from now through 2060, By Mamta Badkar, July 2, 2014, Business Insider: Global wage inequality is expected rise, and economic growth is expected to slow, between now and 2060, according to a new report form the OECD. The report points out that widening earnings gap, ‘rising capital incomes (which tend to be highly concentrated), less redistributive tax and benefit systems, and changing household formation patterns,’ have all contributed to rising inequality in recent decades. ‘Rising inequalities threaten growth, most notably by blocking economic opportunities,’ according to the press release. The OECD projects that earnings inequality could grow between 17-40% by 2060. . .”

Black Male Employment

The economy’s troubling double standard for black men, By Jonnelle Marte, July 2, 2014, Washington Post: “Fifty years ago today, the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination in hiring and education. But for all the opportunities that have been opened to minorities since then, black men still need two more levels of education to have the same chances of landing a job as a white man. A black man with an associates degree has the same chances — about 88 percent– of finding a job as a white high school graduate, according to a recent analysis of employment rates and education for whites and minorities by Young Invincibles, a nonprofit group focusing on the economic issues impacting millennials. Getting a bachelor’s degree ups those chances to 93 percent for a black man, the same as a white man who dropped out of college. . .”

Disconnected Youth

Youth are worse off now than in 1990, By Allie Bidwell, June 30, 2014, US News and World Report: “By several measures, America is becoming more educated, but young people may have less opportunity now than in 1990. The national high school graduation rate is the highest it’s been in decades, and the percentage of adults with some form of college degree has also been on the rise. Nationwide, about 26 percent of adults over 25 had at least an associate’s degree in 2010. But there’s been a growing trend of inequality among young adults, according to a historical report from Opportunity Nation, a national campaign focused on expanding economic mobility, and Measure for America, a project of the Social Science Research Council. Since 1990, the percentage of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school has increased by 5 percent, to a national average of 14.7 percent . . .”

Free College Tuition

Tennessee looks to prevent ‘sticker shock’ in higher ed by offering first two years free, By Nicole Shepherd, June 24, 2014, Deseret News: “As student loan debt reaches a national high of $1.2 trillion, Tennessee has responded by offering free tuition for low-income students attending community colleges. Concern has surfaced among educators and economists that the increase in the cost for higher education is leading new high school graduates to question whether a college education is worth the cost.’Financial aid was supposed to reduce the influence of existing family financial resources on college attainment, but those resources are now a stronger determinant than ever of children’s college prospects,’ wrote Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of education policy and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. . .”

Student Debt and Homeownership

Student debt Is hurting homeownership for blacks more than whites, By Nick Timiraos, June 20, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “Is student loan debt causing young adults to retreat from the housing market en masse? No, but it’s having some impact, and the debt burden appears to be hitting black borrowers harder than whites, says a recent paper from researchers Jason Houle of Dartmouth College and Lawrence Berger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The authors look at the relationship between student-loan debt and homeownership for those under age 30. The authors do find an inverse relationship between student loan debt and homeownership, mortgage acquisition and the amount of mortgage debt. But the overall relationship is modest . . .”

Promise Zones – Philadelphia

Obama’s Promise Zone both a boon and challenge for West Philly nonprofit, By Kate Kilpatrick, June 16, 2014, Al Jazeera America: “With only a week left in the school year, Annette John-Hall was having a tough time getting her third- and fourth-graders to focus on today’s lesson: imagery and metaphors. ‘My hair is like a woolly crown,’ the former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist gave as an example, and asked them to come up with more. ‘My baseball hits are better than Babe Ruth’s?’ asked Lawrence. The class was not quite getting it yet. ’I’m funnier than [Marvel villain] Deadpool,’ Amir wrote on the paper in front of him. Then, at last, Robert called out: ‘My report card is as good as bacon!’Mighty Writers is wrapping up its first school year at its newest location in West Philadelphia on the corner of 39th Street and Lancaster Avenue, right in the heart of an area designated a Promise Zone by President Barack Obama earlier this year. . .”

Child Poverty

The damage of poverty is visible as early as kindergarten, By Danielle Kurtzleben, June 12, 2014, Vox: “A big part of the American Dream is being able to climb the ladder and land higher than your parents. But that climb starts when people are just small children, according to new research, and getting off on the wrong foot has lifelong consequences. In a new article in the spring issue of the Princeton University journal The Future of Children (and highlighted by the Brookings social mobility blog), researchers show that poverty is directly correlated to kindergarten performance. Children who live in poverty have far lower performance than their richer peers across a variety of measures, and those who live in near poverty in turn have dramatically worse performance than middle-class peers. The poorest kids, for example, are less than one-third as likely as middle-class kids to recognize letters. . .”

Inequality and Opportunity

One key to success: A belief in a future, By Eduardo Porter, June 10, 2014, New York Times: “Tim Jackson’s job is to convince young people that they have a stake in the future. The boys in his care at Harper High School, in one of the meanest neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side, all have harsh stories. Clayton Harris, a bouncy 15-year-old freshman, tells me about his older brother, a high school dropout who smokes weed and does little else. Malik McGhee, still a sophomore at 17, knows what it’s like to have had a gun pointed at his head in fourth grade. Almost half the students who enroll at Harper drop out within five years, one of the highest rates in the city. The school is in a part of town where a dispute over a stolen bicycle or a Facebook fight between two girls over a boy might end up with a dead teenager. . .”

Student Loan Debt Relief

Student loan relief: Obama’s order caps payments at 10% of income, By Christi Parsons, June 9, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “President Obama on Monday signed an executive order that lets millions of college graduates cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income, a move he says will help ‘open the doors of opportunity for all.’ By amending student loan regulations to put the cap in place, Obama is making use of his executive powers to help alleviate the burden for young Americans increasingly saddled with student loans . . .”

College Attendance

A case study in lifting college attendance, By David Leonhardt, June 10, 2014, New York Times: “Sydney Nye was a straight-A student with an SAT score high enough to apply to any college in the country. When her senior year of high school in Wilmington, Del., started about nine months ago, she had dreams of becoming a chemical engineer. But she did not spend much time dreaming about where she would go to college. The notion of attending anything other than a local college seemed too far-fetched. She knew her parents — a dental assistant and a hairdresser, neither of whom had attended college — would have a hard time paying the nearly $100 application fee to elite colleges, let alone the tuition . . . “

Wisconsin Student Poverty

Student poverty increases in Wisconsin schools, May 28, 2014, Wisconsin State Journal: “The percentage of Wisconsin public school students in poverty continues to increase. The Department of Public Instruction reports Wednesday that 43.3 percent of students were receiving free or reduced price lunches this school year. That is up by 625 students, or 0.1 percent, from the previous year. That is 13.8 percent higher than a decade ago. . .”

Inequality and Education

How Education Drives Inequality Among the 99%, By Brenda Cronin, May 23, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “Recent hand-wringing about income inequality has focused on the gap between the top 1% and everyone else. A new paper argues that the more telling inequities exist among the 99%, primarily driven by education. ’The single-minded focus on the top 1% can be counterproductive given that the changes to the other 99% have been more economically significant,’ says David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and author of the study. His paper, ‘Skills, Education and the Rise of Earnings Inequality Among the ‘Other 99 Percent’,’ comes as something of riposte to French economist Thomas Piketty, whose bestselling ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ has ignited sales and conversation around the world with its historical look at the fortunes of the top 1%. Mr. Autor estimates that since the early 1980s, the earnings gap between workers with a high school degree and those with a college education has become four times greater than the shift in income. . .”

College Graduation Gap

Who gets to graduate? By Paul Tough, May 18, 2014, New York Times: “For as long as she could remember, Vanessa Brewer had her mind set on going to college. The image of herself as a college student appealed to her — independent, intelligent, a young woman full of potential — but it was more than that; it was a chance to rewrite the ending to a family story that went off track 18 years earlier, when Vanessa’s mother, then a high-achieving high-school senior in a small town in Arkansas, became pregnant with Vanessa. Vanessa’s mom did better than most teenage mothers. She married her high-school boyfriend, and when Vanessa was 9, they moved to Mesquite, a working-class suburb of Dallas, where she worked for a mortgage company. Vanessa’s parents divorced when she was 12, and money. . .”

US High School Graduation Rate

  • High school graduation rates at historic high, By Lyndsey Layton, April 28, 2014, Washington Post: “Calling it ‘a profound milestone,’ Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday that the country has reached its highest graduation rate in history, with 80 percent of students receiving a diploma in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available…”
  • 80 percent of high school students now graduate, By Kimberly Hefling (AP), April 28, 2014, Chicago Sun-Times: “U.S. public high schools have reached a milestone, an 80 percent graduation rate. Yet that still means 1 of every 5 students walks away without a diploma. Citing the progress, researchers are projecting a 90 percent national graduation rate by 2020. Their report, based on Education Department statistics from 2012, was presented Monday at the Building a GradNation Summit…”

College Students and Food Insecurity

More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise, By Tara Bahrampour, April 9, 2014, Washington Post: “When Paul Vaughn, an economics major, was in his third year at George Mason University, he decided to save money by moving off campus. He figured that skipping the basic campus meal plan, which costs $1,575 for 10 meals a week each semester, and buying his own food would make life easier. But he had trouble affording the $50 a week he had budgeted for food and ended up having to get two jobs to pay for it…”

Child Well-Being and Race

  • N.J. study warns of continuing struggle for black, Latino children, By Monsy Alvarado, April 1, 2014, The Record: “White, Asian, African-American and Latino children in New Jersey scored higher than the national average across racial and ethnic backgrounds in several key indicators that measure a child’s chance at success in school and in life. But the data in a report, for release today by a national advocacy organization, reveal deep disparities within the state’s racial and ethnic groups in areas including fourth-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math skills, high school and college graduation rates, and poverty levels. White and Asian children in the Garden State continue to score better than their Latino and black counterparts in several of these areas…”
  • Minority kids don’t fare as well as whites in Utah, By Kristen Moulton, March 31, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune: “Minority children fare worse in Utah than their white counterparts, but there are plenty of challenges — poverty, and poor access to health care and education — to go around, according to a new national study. The study, ‘Race for Results: Building a Path of Opportunity for All Children’ is being released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count project. For nearly two decades, the foundation has joined with Voices for Utah Children to research the well-being of Utah children. The new study, however, is the first time there’s been a close look at how children fare by ethnic group, said Terry Haven, deputy director for Voices for Utah Children…”
  • Report: Well-being of African-Americans in Michigan among worst in nation, By Charles E. Ramirez, April 1, 2014, Detroit News: “The well-being of African-American children in Michigan is among the worst in the nation, according to a report to be released today. The Kids Count report found only Mississippi and Wisconsin fared worse than the Wolverine state, based on 12 criteria, including normal birth weights, education of parents and the number of children living at or above poverty…”
  • No state worse than Wisconsin for black children, says new national study, By Mike Ivey, April 1, 2014, Capital Times: “For African-American children seeking a better future, no state looks worse than Wisconsin. A new national report shows that children of color face enormous barriers to educational and financial achievement — with Wisconsin ranking last in the disparity between white children and their non-white peers. White children growing up in Wisconsin ranked 10th among the states in an index measuring 12 key indicators at various stages of life, including home situation, educational skills and income. But Wisconsin ranks 50th for black children, 37th for Asian children and 17th for Latino children, according to the study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation titled ‘Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children…’”