Star Tribune Series on Poverty

  • Taking risks to pursue the American dream, By Adam Belz, December 28, 2016, Star Tribune: “Ethrophic Burnett escaped the South Side of Chicago, moved to Minneapolis ‘to have a life for my kids’ — and wound up in a social experiment.  In the late 1990s, when the oldest of her children were just in elementary school, her family was one of hundreds that was moved to the Twin Cities suburbs as the result of a federal fair housing lawsuit. Her children thrived, she said. They developed new ambitions that otherwise might have seemed distant.  Then, three years ago, as her oldest daughter entered college, Burnett lost eligibility for the home she was living in and moved the family back to the poorest area of Minneapolis…”
  • Prosperity grows out of small-town America, By Adam Belz, December 29, 2016, Star Tribune: “Sylvia Hilgeman grew up no-frills on a farm in Red Lake County in northwest Minnesota, where flat fields are broken by steel grain bins, stands of aspen and abandoned farmhouses.  Her dad cultivated rented land and her mom raised cattle and milked cows at a neighboring farm to help pay the bills. They raised their children in a double-wide mobile home across a gravel driveway from her great-uncle’s homestead. ‘My parents, they worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met,’ Hilgeman said. The work paid off for their children. Sylvia went to college, got a job in accounting and later joined the FBI. Today, she investigates white collar crime in New York City…”
  • Poor forced to make extreme choices as affordable homes erode, By Adam Belz, December 30, 2016, Star Tribune: “Kendrick Bates fought his way out of poverty to within two semesters of a bachelor’s degree. Now he needs an apartment. He’s been accepted at a college in suburban Roseville, but he hasn’t been able to find a home in a good neighborhood that he can afford. Bates, who now lives near the southern Minnesota town of New Ulm with his two daughters, grew up in poverty in Mississippi and is wary of the trade-offs of urban life. He is looking beyond the metro area and likes Stillwater, Hudson and New Richmond in Wisconsin…”

Economic Mobility

Poor at 20, poor for life, By Alana Semuels, July 14, 2016, The Atlantic: “It’s not an exaggeration: It really is getting harder to move up in America. Those who make very little money in their first jobs will probably still be making very little decades later, and those who start off making middle-class wages have similarly limited paths. Only those who start out at the top are likely to continue making good money throughout their working lives. That’s the conclusion of a new paper by Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, two economists at the University of Massachusetts in Boston…”

Economic Mobility – Charlotte, NC

Where children rarely escape poverty, By Emily DeRuy and Janie Boschma, March 7, 2016, The Atlantic: “Charlotte, North Carolina, wants to change its status as one of the worst places in the United States for poor children to have a shot at getting ahead as adults. If the city succeeds, its efforts may offer a roadmap for other major metro areas gripped by barriers such as concentrated poverty and school segregation. Improving schools, particularly how they serve poor black and Latino children, will be a crucial piece in the fight to reduce inequity. Right now, the percentage of children in Charlotte attending schools where at least half the students are poor varies significantly by race…”

Income of Hispanic Families

More Latino kids In low-income but more financially stable households, By Suzanne Gamboa, December 8, 2015, NBC News: “Although they are more likely to be poor than other children, Hispanic children in low-income households have had more economically stable homes.  But the Great Recession took some toll on the earnings in these low-income families, as well as children in higher-income earning households, according to ‘Child Trends’ reports from the National Research Center for Hispanic Children and Families…”

Home Loan Discrimination

‘Redlining’ home loan discrimination re-emerges as a concern for regulators, By Rachel L. Swarns, October 30, 2015, New York Times: “The green welcome sign hangs in the front door of the downtown branch ofHudson City Savings Bank, New Jersey’s largest savings bank. But for years, federal regulators said, its executives did what they could to keep certain customers out.  They steered clear of black and Hispanic neighborhoods as they opened branches across New York and Connecticut, federal officials said. They focused on marketing mortgages in predominantly white sections of suburban New Jersey and Long Island, not here or in Bridgeport, Conn.  The results were stark. In 2014, Hudson approved 1,886 mortgages in the market that includes New Jersey and sections of New York and Connecticut, federal mortgage data show. Only 25 of those loans went to black borrowers…”

Resources for Low-Income Entrepreneurs

Low-income entrepreneurs welcome added assistance, By Katie Johnson, October 12, 2015, Boston Globe: “For a decade, Tiffany White worked as an executive assistant in Dorchester, living paycheck to paycheck to support herself and her son. But now she is on the other side of the corporate divide, the owner of a new business looking to hire as many as six employees for a natural skin and nail care studio scheduled to open in Hyde Park in November. White, 46, credits her leap to becoming a business owner to a free 12-week entrepreneurship program aimed at residents of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan…”

Upward Mobility

An atlas of upward mobility shows paths out of poverty, By David Leonhardt, Amanda Cox and Claire Cain Miller, May 4, 2015, New York Times: “In the wake of the Los Angeles riots more than 20 years ago, Congress created an anti-poverty experiment called Moving to Opportunity. It gave vouchers to help poor families move to better neighborhoods and awarded them on a random basis, so researchers could study the effects.  The results were deeply disappointing. Parents who received the vouchers did not seem to earn more in later years than otherwise similar adults, and children did not seem to do better in school. The program’s apparent failure has haunted social scientists and policy makers, making poverty seem all the more intractable.  Now, however, a large new study is about to overturn the findings of Moving to Opportunity. Based on the earnings records of millions of families that moved with children, it finds that poor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere…”

Upward Mobility

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

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. . .”

Economic Mobility in the US

  • Upward mobility has not declined, study says, By David Leonhardt, January 23, 2014, New York Times: “The odds of moving up — or down — the income ladder in the United States have not changed appreciably in the last 20 years, according to a large new academic study that contradicts politicians in both parties who have claimed that income mobility is falling. Both President Obama and leading Republicans, like Representative Paul Ryan, have argued recently that the odds of climbing the income ladder are lower today than in previous decades. The new study, based on tens of millions of anonymous tax records, finds that the mobility rate has held largely steady in recent decades, although it remains lower than in Canada and in much of Western Europe, where the odds of escaping poverty are higher…”
  • Economic mobility hasn’t changed in a half-century in America, economists declare, By Jim Tankersley, January 22, 2014, Washington Post: “Children growing up in America today are just as likely — no more, no less — to climb the economic ladder as children born more than a half-century ago, a team of economists reported Thursday. Even though social movements have delivered better career opportunities for women and minorities and government grants have made college more accessible, one thing has stayed constant: If you are growing up poor today, you appear to have the same odds of staying poor in adulthood that your grandparents did…”

Economic Mobility in the US

  • Getting unstuck: Why some people get out of poverty and others don’t, By Michael De Groote, November 10, 2013, Deseret News: “Call it rags to rags. While many Americans believe the poor can rise up from the bottom, the statistics show otherwise. New research by Pew’s Economic Mobility Project shows that 70 percent of those who are born in the bottom fifth never climb the economic ladder. ‘One of the hallmarks of the American Dream is the belief that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can achieve economic success,’ says Diana Elliott, who manages Pew’s research on economic mobility. While that dream may seem no longer in reach for the poorest Americans, some do move up, Elliott says…”
  • Here’s who moves up the economic ladder, By Allison Linn, November 8, 2013, CNBC: “Want to move up the economic ladder? Go to college, find a spouse who works and try to avoid getting laid off. College graduates, people in dual-earner families, whites and those lucky enough to escape a bout of unemployment are also the most likely to move from the bottom fifth of the income ladder to at least the middle, according to a new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of family income trends…”

Geography and Upward Mobility

In climbing income ladder, location matters, By David Leonhardt, July 22, 2013, New York Times: “Stacey Calvin spends almost as much time commuting to her job — on a bus, two trains and another bus — as she does working part-time at a day care center. She knows exactly where to board the train and which stairwells to use at the stations so that she has the best chance of getting to work on time in the morning and making it home to greet her three children after school. ‘It’s a science you just have to perfect over time,’ said Ms. Calvin, 37. Her nearly four-hour round-trip stems largely from the economic geography of Atlanta, which is one of America’s most affluent metropolitan areas yet also one of the most physically divided by income. The low-income neighborhoods here often stretch for miles, with rows of houses and low-slung apartments, interrupted by the occasional strip mall, and lacking much in the way of good-paying jobs. This geography appears to play a major role in making Atlanta one of the metropolitan areas where it is most difficult for lower-income households to rise into the middle class and beyond, according to a new study that other researchers are calling the most detailed portrait yet of income mobility in the United States…”

Inequality and the Family

Economic Inequality and the Changing Family, By Jason DeParle, July 14, 2012, New York Times: “As my article this weekend about two families in Ann Arbor, Mich., points out, the widening in many measures of inequality can be traced in part to changes in marriage patterns, rather than just changes in individual earnings. A number of scholars have looked at the varied dimensions of this thesis — growing inequality, changes in family structure, and the connection between the two. Here is a look at some of their findings. On inequality: An interesting pattern over the last four decades is that inequality has grown much faster for households with children than it has for households over all — an indication that changes in family structure (as opposed to wages and employment alone) have increased inequality. Bruce Western and Tracey Shollenberger of the Harvard sociology department compared households at the 90th percentile and the 10th percentile. In 1970, the top households had 8.9 times the income of the bottom. By 2011 they had nearly 11.7 times as much. . .”

Economic Mobility

Economic mobility: Who gets left behind, By Tami Luhby, July 10, 2012, CNN Money: “Most Americans make more than their parents did, but that doesn’t mean they’re all moving up the economic ladder. Some 84% of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents had at the same age, according to a new report from the Pew Economic Mobility Project. And 93% of those who grew up in the poorest fifth of the income ladder exceed their parents’ family income as adults. But out-earning their parents hasn’t helped many of them climb out of poverty, as many poor American families remain stuck at the bottom of the income barrel. Some 43% remain in the lowest quintile. . .”

Cross-National Social Mobility

A secret to social mobility: inherit your job from your dad, By Miles Corak, May 17, 2012, Globe and Mail: “In an article that appeared earlier this year, The New York Times described the extent to which rich parents can expect to see their children grow up to be rich adults, as well as the likelihood that the poor raise children destined for poverty. Surprisingly enough, the article came close to concluding that if Americans are interested in living the American Dream – where family background has little influence on adult outcomes – they should move to, of all places, Denmark, or if crossing the Atlantic seems daunting, then, as a second best, to Canada. Indeed, Denmark has been a darling of sorts ever since Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett highlighted in their book, The Spirit Level, that Danish life is so much better along a whole host of dimensions because income inequality is so much lower. . .”

Economic Mobility in the US

Middle class dropouts, By Tami Luhby, January 11, 2012, CNNMoney.com: “Nearly one third of Americans who were raised in the middle class dropped down the economic ladder as adults — and that’s before the Great Recession hit. ‘Being raised in the middle class is not a guarantee that you’ll have that same status as an adult,’ said Erin Currier, project manager at Pew’s Economic Mobility Project. ‘With all the economic turmoil in the past four years, there’s good reason to think that downward mobility is more severe.’ Pew looked at children born in the early- to mid-1960s and assessed their economic status roughly 40 years later. Being middle class in the parents’ generation meant a household income of roughly $33,000 to $64,000 in 1979. But their children had to earn between $54,000 and $111,000 to maintain their relative standing in society in the mid-2000s…”

Economic Mobility in the US

Harder for Americans to rise from lower rungs, By Jason DeParle, January 4, 2012, New York Times: “Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. ‘Movin’ on up,’ George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion. But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage…”

Economic Mobility in the US

Economic mobility has fallen, study says, By Walter Hamilton, December 1, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “There’s nothing more American than going from rags to riches. Or so the image goes. The reality, according to a recent study, is far less rosy. The ability to go from poor to rich – or at least to climb out of poverty – has become much harder to do in the last three decades, according to an analysis by Wells Fargo Securities. The percentage of low-income people who moved up the economic ladder slowed sharply from 1980 to 2009, compared with the previous dozen years, the study found. The drop in economic mobility, combined with recently declining government aid to the poor, has left many Americans with no way to dig themselves out of poverty…”

Census Data on Mobility

  • Many who started in middle class find lifestyle slipping away, By Aldo Svaldi, October 23, 2011, Denver Post: “Joanne Spillman, 50, grew up in a large home in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, never wanting for anything, and never anticipating she would achieve anything less in her life. ‘We were middle class, and our needs were met,’ Spillman said. ‘I always figured I would grow up and live the same lifestyle.’ But Spillman has struggled her whole adult life to reach the standard of living she once knew, a struggle that the recession and weak recovery have made much tougher. Nearly three out of 10 Americans, 28 percent, born in the middle class drop out of it as adults, according to a recent study on economic mobility from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The study defines middle class as those families making between $32,900 and $64,000 in 2010 dollars, which ranks between the 30th and 70th percentiles of income. The 30th percentile was used as a cut-off point because it is where families typically stop relying on government support to get by, said Erin Currier, project manager for Pew’s Economic Mobility Project…”
  • Census: Share of Americans on the move falls to record low amid long-term housing and job woes, Associated Press, October 26, 2011, Washington Post: “Yet another symptom of the economic downturn: Americans aren’t moving. Young adults are staying put, often with their parents. Older people aren’t able to retire to beachfront or lakeside homes. U.S. mobility is at its lowest point since World War II. New information from the Census Bureau highlights the continuing impact of the housing bust and unemployment on U.S. migration, after earlier signs that mobility was back on the upswing. It’s a shift from America’s long-standing cultural image of ever-changing frontiers, dating to the westward migration of the 1800s and more recently in the spreading out of whites, blacks and Hispanics in the Sun Belt’s housing boom. Rather than housing magnets such as Arizona, Florida and Nevada, it is now more traditional, densely populated states – California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey – that are showing some of the biggest population gains in the recent economic slump, according to the data released Thursday…”