Rural Poverty

What’s the matter With Eastern Kentucky? By Annie Lowrey, June 26, 2014, New York Times: “There are many tough places in this country: the ghost cities of Detroit, Camden and Gary, the sunbaked misery of inland California and the isolated reservations where Native American communities were left to struggle. But in its persistent poverty, Eastern Kentucky — land of storybook hills and drawls ­ — just might be the hardest place to live in the United States. Statistically speaking. The team at The Upshot, a Times news and data-analysis venture, compiled six basic metrics to give a picture of the quality and longevity of life in each county of the nation: educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate. Weighting each equally, six counties in eastern Kentucky’s coal country (Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin) rank among the bottom 10. Clay County, in dead last, might as well be in a different country. The median household income there is barely above the poverty line, at $22,296. . .”

Job Corps

Great Society at 50: LBJ’s Job Corps will cost taxpayers $1.7 billion this year. Does it work? By David A. Fahrentold, May 19, 2014, Washington Post: “In the middle of an Oklahoma wildlife refuge — at a campus so remote that buffalo wander in — about 100 young people are taking classes in the hope that the U.S. government can turn their lives around. Given the statistics, most of them will be disappointed. This is the Treasure Lake Job Corps center, an outpost of a job-training program created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. The program began with a noble, untested idea: Government could save troubled youths one at a time, taking them in and teaching them a trade. Today, students here learn subjects such as cooking, nursing and plumbing. . .”

State Poverty Rates

Uneven gains for states after 50 years of the War on Poverty, By Jake Grovum, January 30, 2014, Stateline: “The War on Poverty has alleviated some of the economic despair that existed when President Lyndon Johnson declared ‘all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States’ in January 1964. But many of the states that were among the poorest decades ago remain so today, even as safety-net programs have benefited millions of Americans. The average poverty rate among the states was 24 percent in 1959. But some were in much worse shape than others: Mississippi’s rate, for example, was 54.5 percent then. The rate in Arkansas was 47.5 percent, and in South Carolina it was 45.4 percent. Fifteen states had official poverty rates of 30 percent or higher, according to the 1960 U.S. Census. That year the official federal poverty level was an annual household income of $2,973 for a family of four, or $23,800 in today’s dollars…”

Politics and Poverty

  • The political war over poverty, By Leigh Ann Caldwell, January 8, 2014, CNN: “Tianna Gaines-Turner is so politically active, she gave 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney a questionnaire to answer on policy positions. When he failed to respond, she volunteered on President Barack Obama’s campaign. She also encourages her neighbors to vote. Her activism is persistent despite feeling like she is an ignored component of the American electorate. ‘I feel like they’re not talking to me,’ Gaines-Turner said of politicians. That’s because she is poor. Her life is not unlike those of millions of Americans who rely on a patchwork of government assistance and near-minimum wage jobs…”
  • Republicans move to reclaim poverty-fighting mantle, By Annie Lowrey and Ashley Parker, January 8, 2014, New York Times: “Senator Marco Rubio says the American dream has become ‘unattainable.’ Senator Mike Lee says reforming government benefits programs should be the country’s ‘first priority.’ And Representative Paul D. Ryan says the government safety net has ‘failed miserably.’ Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, the message from Republicans in Congress is that the government has foundered in its efforts to address the problem…”
  • Deep divides split Washington over how to combat poverty, By Rebecca Kaplan, January 8, 2014, CBS News: “Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson first declared “War on Poverty,” lawmakers are still looking for ways to root it out of society. In 2014, it stands to be a central issue as Democrats shape their legislative and campaign agendas around issues like unemployment benefits and a minimum wage increase. But there are Republicans looking get in on the action as well. As political divisions between the two parties have deepened in recent years, so have the differences between their fiscal philosophies. The debate over whether to extend emergency unemployment benefits is a microcosm of this larger divide as Democrats call for an unconditional extension of benefits and Republicans seek to offset the cost and add additional job-creation measures. Many of the 2014 debates may well center around who is doing more to help low-income and middle-class Americans…”

US Anti-Poverty Programs

50 years later, war on poverty is a mixed bag, By Annie Lowrey, January 2, 2014, New York Times: “To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate. But looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans. At the same time, in recent decades, most of the gains from the private economy have gone to those at the top of the income ladder…”

A Plan for Urban Poverty?

What Does Obama Really Believe In?, By Paul Tough, August 15, 2012, New York Times Magazine: “From the back seat of Steve Gates’s white Pontiac, Monique Robbins spotted Jasmine Coleman walking home from school alone. It was an icy December afternoon on Chicago’s South Side, and Jasmine’s only protection against the wind was a thin purple jacket. She looked cold. Gates pulled the car over to the curb, and Robbins hollered at Jasmine to get in. Jasmine was 16, and Robbins and Gates, who were both in their 30s, were her neighbors. All three of them lived in or around Roseland, a patch of distinctly subprime Chicago real estate that stretches from 89th Street to 115th Street, way down past the last stop on the El. Fifty years ago, Roseland was a prosperous part of Chicago, home to thousands of blue-collar workers, most of them white, employed by the South Side’s many steel and manufacturing plants. But the plants closed long ago. . .”