Basic Income – Finland

Finland trials basic income for unemployed, By Jon Henley, January 3, 2017, The Guardian: “Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum, in a social experiment that will be watched around the world amid gathering interest in the idea of a universal basic income.  Under the two-year, nationwide pilot scheme, which began on 1 January, 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 will receive a guaranteed sum of €560 (£475). The income will replace their existing social benefits and will be paid even if they find work…”

State Minimum Wage Increases

A higher minimum wage in 2017, By Karl Russell, January 5, 2017, New York Times: “With the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour unchanged since 2009, many states have taken matters into their own hands and raised the statewide minimum wage. While a higher floor for pay is a powerful tool for improving the lot of the least-skilled workers, some economists worry it could result in slower job creation or cuts as employers confront higher labor costs…”

Social Security and Student Loan Debt

The disturbing trend of people losing Social Security benefits to student debt, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, December 20, 2016, Washington Post: “To recoup student-loan debt, the government is leaving people who rely on Social Security with benefits that fall below federal poverty guidelines, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday.  The number of older Americans defaulting on education loans has steadily increased in recent decades, as many have returned to college or co-signed loans for family members. Unpaid debt has resulted in the government garnishing the benefits of 114,000 people age 50 and older in the past year, more than half of whom were receiving Social Security disability rather than retirement income, the GAO report said…”

American Community Survey

  • Poverty grows in swaths of suburbs, By Christine MacDonald and Mike Martindale, December 8, 2016, Detroit News: “Poverty is growing and incomes are down in pockets of suburban Metro Detroit, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday, but in most of the area’s small cities those numbers have remained stagnant.  Nearly a quarter of Metro Detroit’s smaller communities saw median household income decline and 20 percent saw the poverty rate grow, according to an analysis of census data by The Detroit News. The remaining communities saw no gains or losses and only a handful saw improvements, when comparing two five-year periods, 2006-10 and 2011-15…”
  • Census: Economic data paints two different portraits of Utah, By Daphne Chen, December 7, 2016, Deseret News: “In the remote red mesas of this southeastern corner of Utah, Charlie DeLorme counts the jobs by the single digits.  There’s the Latigo wind farm that started operations last March, creating six new full-time positions.  There’s the Desert Rose Inn in Bluff, which added 10 jobs after a luxury expansion…”
  • Census Bureau surveys highlight growing differences between rural, urban living, By Alan Johnson, December 9, 2016, Columbus Dispatch: “If you live in rural Ohio, you’re more likely than city dwellers to own your home, be a military veteran and be married, the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows.  On the other hand, urban residents’ homes are worth more, and they are more likely to have a college degree and internet access. Rural residents, on average, are slightly older and less likely to be in poverty…”

US Income Gap

A bigger economic pie, but a smaller slice for half of the U.S., By Patricia Cohen, December 6, 2016, New York Times: “Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades.  The real economy more than doubled in size; the government now uses a substantial share of that bounty to hand over as much as $5 trillion to help working families, older people, disabled and unemployed people pay for a home, visit a doctor and put their children through school.  Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly, new research has found…”

Cliff Effect of Public Assistance Programs

$15 minimum wage could squeeze workers on public assistance, By Katie Johnson, December 9, 2016, Boston Globe: “If it succeeds, a campaign to raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour could put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and create a path to self-sufficiency. But for some families, the boost in pay could mean a drop of hundreds of dollars a month in government benefits.  Food stamps, child care vouchers, and rent subsidies could be cut before families can afford to cover those expenses on their own, leaving some households, particularly single parents with young children, worse off despite a bigger paycheck — a phenomenon known as the ‘cliff effect…””

Neighborhood Economics and Health

How economics, demographics affect a community’s health concerns, By Donna Vickroy, November 11, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “One county; very different health concerns across it.  The myriad communities that make up Cook County tell a story of affluence and poverty and points in between. And, depending on a community’s economic standing, its biggest health concerns can be very different.  For example, Cook County Public Health officials are concerned about the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Chicago’s economically struggling North Lawndale community. But in economically affluent south suburban Orland Park, where incidents of STDs are vastly lower, there is uneasiness over mental health issues and suicide rates.  A new study put together by county public health officials and local university professors examines quality of life issues across specific Cook County communities and asks a number of questions, including why do some communities thrive while others are in decline…”

Black-White Income Gap

The (very) few places with no black-white income gap, By Tim Henderson, November 10, 2016, Stateline: “The income gap between black and white households has grown since 2000 and only worsened since the recession.  In 2015, the median income for black households was 59.5 percent of that for whites, or $36,544 to $61,394. That’s a greater gap than at the end of the recession in 2009, when black income was 61.2 percent of white income.  Yet, a tiny number of places exist where black household income is greater than that of whites. Of the 364 large U.S. counties whose populations are at least 5 percent black, there are seven, according to a Stateline analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data for 2010-14…”

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Why more grandparents are raising children, By Teresa Wiltz, November 2, 2016, Stateline: “The number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is going up and increasingly it’s because their own kids are addicted to heroin or prescription drugs, or have died from an overdose. For some, it’s a challenge with little help available.  In 2005, 2.5 million children were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care. By 2015, that number had risen to 2.9 million.  Child welfare officials say drug addiction, especially to opioids, is behind much of the rise in the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, just as it was during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. An estimated 2.4 million people were addicted to opioids at last count…”

Health Care Spending – Massachusetts

Low-income communities see fewer health care dollars, AG report finds, By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, October 13, 2016, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts’ health insurance market has an income inequality problem, according to a report from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, whose findings mirror national studies.  The analysis found that more health care dollars are spent on higher-income communities than on lower-income communities — even though the latter tend to have greater medical needs. Healey’s office called this a ‘distressing’ trend that has persisted for years…”

Low-income Students and Financial Aid for College

Many low-income students don’t know they can get money for college, survey shows, By Karen Farkas, October 4, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Many low-income high school students do not know they can receive money for college, according to a report by the National College Access Network.  A survey showed students who did not apply for financial aid did not know what aid is and did not know how they could get it.  Promoting and providing help to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the primary mission of the organization and its members, is not enough, the group said…”

Racial Wage Gap

  • Wage gap between blacks and whites is worst in nearly 40 years, By Tanzina Vega, September 20, 2016, CNN Money: “The wage gap between blacks and whites is the worst it’s been in nearly four decades, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.  Last year, the hourly pay gap between blacks and whites widened to 26.7%, with whites making an average of $25.22 an hour compared to $18.49 for blacks, the EPI found. Almost 40 years ago, in 1979, the wage gap between blacks and whites was 18.1%, with whites earning an inflation-adjusted average of $19.62 an hour and blacks earning $16.07 an hour…”
  • Black and white wage gap growing significantly, analysis say, By Lonnie Shekhtman, September 20, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “The wage gap between black and white workers has grown by 32 percent in the last three decades, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The widening disparity is most deeply felt among college-educated workers, EPI says.  In comparing the average hourly wages of black and white workers, the Washington, D.C.-based, liberal think tank took into account where workers lived, their education levels, and professional experience. It found that in 2015, black men earned 22 percent less overall than white men, an increase from a 17 percent disparity in 1979…”

Poverty in the United States

Millions in U.S. climb out of poverty, at long last, By Patricia Cohen, September 25, 2016, New York Times: “Not that long ago, Alex Caicedo was stuck working a series of odd jobs and watching his 1984 Chevy Nova cough its last breaths. He could make $21 an hour at the Johnny Rockets food stand at FedEx Field when the Washington Redskins were playing, but the work was spotty.  Today, Mr. Caicedo is an assistant manager at a pizzeria in Gaithersburg, Md., with an annual salary of $40,000 and health benefits. And he is getting ready to move his wife and children out of his mother-in-law’s house and into their own place. Doubling up has been a lifesaver, Mr. Caicedo said, ‘but nobody just wants to move in with their in-laws.’  The Caicedos are among the 3.5 million Americans who were able to raise their chins above the poverty line last year, according to census data released this month. More than seven years after the recession ended, employers are finally being compelled to reach deeper into the pools of untapped labor, creating more jobs, especially among retailers, restaurants and hotels, and paying higher wages to attract workers and meet new minimum wage requirements…”

State Minimum Wage – Colorado

Minimum wage fight: Raise it or not?, By Alicia Stice, September 23, 2016, The Coloradoan: “When an unexpected expense comes up — like the time her 9-year-old black lab, Libby, racked up a $700 vet bill — Lauren Gutierrez knows it’s time to pick up extra shifts.  In Fort Collins where she grew up, Gutierrez cannot afford to live alone.  This semester, she dropped two of her classes at Front Range Community College because the full course load was too much to handle along with her long shifts working as a caregiver for elderly residents.  Living as a low-wage worker has inspired Gutierrez to volunteer for the campaign to raise Colorado’s minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020, with increases every year in between…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

Kindergarten Readiness Gap

  • Study: Poor kindergartners are catching up, By Lauren Camera, August 26, 2016, US News and World Report: “After decades of exponential growth in the gap of kindergarten academic readiness between poor students and their wealthier peers, that fissure is finally closing.  Between 1998 and 2010, the difference in kindergarten readiness between high- and low-income children narrowed by 10 percent to 16 percent, according to a study published Friday in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.  Previously, that academic achievement gap between poor and wealthy children had grown by about 40 percent since the 1970s…”
  • Low-income kindergartners are closing the achievement gap, reversing a decades-old trend, By Emma Brown, August 26, 2016, Washington Post: “Low-income kindergartners are entering school with stronger math and reading skills, narrowing the academic gap with their affluent peers and reversing a decades-old trend, according to research released Friday.  The good news surprised researchers, who had expected to see school-readiness gaps growing — particularly given the broad societal trends of increasing income inequality and economic segregation…”

Poverty and Brain Development

How poverty affects the brain, By Erika Hayasaki, August 25, 2016, Newsweek: “The video tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan who at 15 survived being shot in the head by the Taliban while riding a bus in 2012. ‘I want to get my education, and I want to become a doctor,’ she says, adding that the Taliban throw acid on some people’s faces and kill others, but ‘they cannot stop me.’  A 15-year-old boy watching the clip on a laptop inside the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute seems unmoved by Yousafzai’s story—his face is blank, his shoulders slumped. An interviewer asks how it makes him feel…”

US Bail System and the Poor

  • Obama’s lawyers challenge the money bail system: Can people be kept in jail just because they are poor?, By David Savage, August 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “President Obama’s civil rights lawyers are seeking a potentially far-reaching ruling to hold that the Constitution forbids the common practice of keeping people in jail prior to a trial, even for minor offenses, just because they are too poor to pay for bail.  Every day, about 450,000 people are held under arrest in city and county jails because they cannot afford bail, according to the Southern Center for Human Rights and Equal Justice Under Law, a small Washington-based civil rights group…”
  • Justice department steps in against jailing practices that target poor people, By Jamiles Lartey, August 24, 2016, The Guardian: “Maurice Walker’s case is far from exceptional.  Arrested on 3 September 2015 for public intoxication, Walker, a 54-year-old black man with a serious mental disorder that leaves him unable to work, was faced with two options: pay a $160 cash bond and leave jail that day, or remain in jail over a holiday weekend. Walker told officials that he couldn’t afford the standard bond required by the city for the misdemeanor and wound up spending six days in jail, only being allowed out of his cell for an hour a day. Walker said he was also denied daily medication he took for his disorder…”