SAN DIEGO — In a typical last-minute scramble, Jannette Navarro,
a 22-year-old Starbucks barista and single mother, scraped
together a plan for surviving the month of July without setting
off family or financial disaster.
YAMHILL, Ore. — ONE delusion common among America’s successful
people is that they triumphed just because of hard work and
In fact, their big break came when they were conceived in
middle-class American families who loved them, read them stories,
and nurtured them with Little League sports, library cards and
music lessons. They were programmed for success by the time they
Like it or not, television has the power to shape our perceptions
of the world. So what do sitcoms, dramas and reality TV say about
In life and on TV, “poor” is relative. Take breakfast: For Honey
Boo Boo’s family, it’s microwaved sausage and pancake sandwiches;
for children in The Wire’s Baltimore ghetto, it’s a juice box and
a bag of chips before school; and on Good Times, set in the
Chicago projects back in the 1970s, it was a healthier choice:
More than 21 million children get free or reduced priced meals
during the school year. But in the summer, that number drops to
only three million.
The big question is what happens to all the other children. Do
they get enough, and the right food, to eat?
This summer, government agencies and are making a massive push to
get millions of meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry as
part of the nationwide . And they’re doing some creative things
to reach them.
As more workers find their lives upended and their paychecks
reduced by ever-changing, on-call schedules, government officials
are trying to put limits on the harshest of those scheduling
The actions reflect a growing national movement — fueled by
women’s and labor groups — to curb practices that affect millions
of families, like assigning just one or two days of work a week
or requiring employees to work unpredictable hours that wreak
havoc with everyday routines like college and child care.
Annie Lowrey writes in the Times Magazine this week about the
troubles of Clay County, Ky., which by several measures is the
hardest place in America to live.
The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points
for each county in the United States: education (percentage of
residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household
income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and
obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these
categories to create an overall ranking.
On a hazy, hot evening here, Janice Marks ate a dinner of turkey
and stuffing at a homeless shelter filled with plastic cots
before crossing a few blocks to the Arkansas side of town to
start her night shift restocking the dairy cases at Walmart.
The next day, David Tramel and Janice McFall had a free meal of
hot dogs and doughnut holes at a Salvation Army center in
Arkansas before heading back to their tent, hidden in a field by
the highway in Texas.
Is a family with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television
and a computer with an Internet connection poor?
Americans — even many of the poorest — enjoy a level of material
abundance unthinkable just a generation or two ago. That
indisputable economic fact has become a subject of bitter
political debate this year, half a century after President Lyndon
B. Johnson declared a war on poverty.
When people visit with friends and neighbors in southern West
Virginia, where paved roads give way to dirt before winding
steeply up wooded hollows, the talk is often of lives that never
got off the ground.
“How’s John boy?” Sabrina Shrader, 30, a former neighbor, asked
Marie Bolden one cold winter day at what Ms. Bolden calls her
“little shanty by the tracks.”
Ask Anne Valdez what poverty means for her, and her answer will
describe much more than a simple lack of money.
“It’s like being stuck in a black hole,” says Valdez, 47, who is
unemployed and trying to raise a teenage son in Coney Island, New
York City. “Poverty is like literally being held back from
enjoying life, almost to the point of not being able to breathe.”
For years, researchers have complained that the way the
government measures income and poverty is severely flawed, that
it provides an incomplete — and even distorted — view.
President Obama is hoping to fight poverty, in five so-called
“promise zones.” The government is targeting those areas for
economic revitalization. Host Michel Martin and U.S. Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsack take a look at the rural communities
involved, and the special challenges to fight poverty there.
Growing up poor has long been associated with reduced educational
attainment and lower lifetime earnings. Some evidence also
suggests a higher risk of depression, substance abuse and other
diseases in adulthood. Even for those who manage to overcome
humble beginnings, early-life poverty may leave a lasting mark,
accelerating aging and increasing the risk of degenerative
disease in adulthood.
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson stood before
Congress and declared an “unconditional war on poverty in
America.” His arsenal included new programs: Medicaid, Medicare,
Head Start, food stamps, more spending on education, and tax cuts
to help create jobs.
This report provides nationally representative annual estimates
for 2004-09 of households’ multi-program or “joint” participation
patterns in both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP) and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, including
breakouts of household types categorized by household income
relative to poverty, race/ethnicity, and education level. SNAP
and UI are two strands of the Nation’s recessionary safety
net—the subset of safety-net programs for which participation is
responsive to the business cycle.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — For many, a $10 or $20 cut in the monthly food
budget would be absorbed with little notice.
But for millions of poor Americans who rely on food stamps,
reductions that began this month present awful choices. One
gallon of milk for the kids instead of two. No fresh broccoli for
dinner or snacks to take to school. Weeks of grits and margarine
And for many, it will mean turning to a food pantry or a soup
kitchen by the middle of the month.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In his grand Statehouse office beneath a bust of
Lincoln, Gov. John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in
“I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the
poor,” he said, sitting at the head of a burnished table as
members of his cabinet lingered after a meeting. “That if you’re
poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”
“You know what?” he said. “The very people who complain ought to
ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A.”
RICHMOND, Va. — Dressed on an unseasonably warm day, as ever, in
a tailored suit, tie and pocket square, Mayor Dwight C. Jones, a
fourth-generation pastor, arrived at a late-afternoon meeting
this month to talk about his ambitious — some say quixotic — plan
to subdue poverty in this city, once the capital of the
Confederacy and now one of the nation’s poorest urban areas.
Many Richmond residents live in public housing, but the mayor has
been promoting mixed-income communities.
The gap between America’s best-off and worst-off is widening—and
driving a wedge between young people with the resources to strike
out on their own and those for whom living with family or friends
has become, at least for now, an economic necessity.
The odds that a young adult in the U.S. will become the head of a
household, whether as an owner or renter, has fallen more between
1990 and 2010 than in previous decades, accelerating a trend that
began with the Baby Boomers, according to an analysis of Census
Bureau data by Emily Rosenbaum, a demographer at Fordham
The racial wage gap in the United States — the gap in salary
between whites and blacks with similar levels of education and
experience — is shaped by geography, according to new social
The larger the city, the larger the racial wage gap, according to
researchers Elizabeth Ananat, Shihe Fu and Stephen L. Ross, whose
findings were recently by the National Bureau of Economic
A growing number of American workers are confronting a
frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must
first pay a fee.
For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct
deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their
employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit
cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.
At least one part of the labor force has expanded significantly
since the recession hit: the low-wage part, made up of burger
flippers, home health aides and the like.
Put simply, the recession took middle-class jobs, and the
recovery has replaced them with low-income ones, a trend that has
exacerbated income inequality. According to Labor Department
data, about 1.7 million workers earned the minimum wage or less
in 2007. By 2012, the total had surged to 3.6 million, with
millions of others earning just a few cents or dollars more.
Forced federal spending cuts intended to be equal and
across-the-board have lately fallen harder on the nation’s poor,
sick and elderly.
At the other end, the top brass of federal employees are on track
to receive bonuses. And workers who impact the food and airline
businesses, like meat inspectors and air traffic controllers,
have managed to get a break from Congress.
Poverty is an exam room familiar. From Bellevue Hospital in New
York to the neighborhood health center in Boston where I used to
work, poverty has filtered through many of my interactions with
parents and their children.
WASHINGTON — Why are so many American families trapped in
poverty? Of all the explanations offered by Washington’s
politicians and economists, one seems particularly obvious in the
low-income neighborhoods near the Capitol: because there are so
many parents like Carl Harris and Charlene Hamilton.
For most of their daughters’ childhood, Mr. Harris didn’t come
close to making the minimum wage. His most lucrative job, as a
crack dealer, ended at the age of 24, when he left Washington to
serve two decades in prison, leaving his wife to raise their two
young girls while trying to hold their long-distance marriage
CBO finds that during the past 40 years, federal spending for 10
of the major means-tested programs and tax credits for low-income
households more than tripled as a share of GDP. In 2012, such
spending totaled $588 billion, one-sixth of all federal outlays.
Over the next decade, spending on those programs will continue to
rise under current law, CBO projects, driven mainly by growth in
Medicaid and other means-tested health care programs.
The report was written by Will Carrington, Molly Dahl, and Justin
Falk, with assistance from other CBO staff.
SACRAMENTO — The state Legislature gaveled in a special session
on healthcare Monday, pushing forward with sweeping proposals to
help California implement President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
The measures, including a major expansion of Medi-Cal, the
state’s public insurance program for the poor, would cement the
state’s status as the nation’s earliest and most aggressive
adopter of the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in January
2014, the law requires most Americans to buy health insurance or
pay a penalty.
Across the country, tens of thousands of underemployed and
jobless young people, many with college credits or work
histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the
recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24
with the highest unemployment rate of all adults.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California State Assembly Committee on
Accountability and Administrative Review held hearings in
December 2011 on the problem of inequality and the potential role
of state government. Center for Poverty Research Director Ann
Huff Stevens testified, along with researchers from a variety of
universities and institutes throughout the state.
American income inequality may be more severe today than it was
way back in 1774 — even if you factor in slavery. That stat’s
not actually as crazy (or demoralizing) as it sounds, but it
might upend some of the old wisdom about our country’s economic
heritage. The conclusion comes to us from an newly updated study
by professors Peter Lindert of the University of California -
Davis and Jeffrey Williamson of Harvard. Scraping together data
from an array of historical resources, the duo have written a
fascinating exploration of early American incomes, arguing that,
on the eve of the Revolutionary War, wealth was distributed more
evenly across the 13 colonies than anywhere else in the world
that we have record of.
The share of Americans in poverty in 2011 remained unchanged for
the first time in four years, the Census Bureau reported on
Wednesday, surprising economists who had expected the rate to
rise yet again. Still, the report showed a decline in the incomes
of middle-class Americans, offering a reminder that many American
families have yet to experience gains from the weak economic
recovery. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, was
$50,054 last year, officials said, a decrease of 1.5 percent from
2010. The level was about 8 percent lower than in 2007, the year
before the recession began. The measure peaked in 1999, when the
median income for American households reached $53,252.
With Google’s promise last year to wire homes, schools, libraries
and other public institutions in this city with the nation’s
fastest Internet connection, community leaders on the long
forlorn, predominantly black east side were excited, seeing a
potentially uplifting force. They anticipated new educational
opportunities for their children and an incentive for developers
to build in their communities. But in July, Google announced a
process in which only those areas where enough residents
preregistered and paid a $10 deposit would get the service,
Google Fiber. While nearly all of the affluent, mostly white
neighborhoods here quickly got enough registrants, a broad swath
of black communities lagged.
“This is just one more example of people that are lower income,
sometimes not higher educated people, being left behind,” said
Margaret May, the executive director of the neighborhood council
in Ivanhoe, where the poverty rate was more than 46 percent in
2009. “It makes me very sad.”