Poverty News


News and Articles About Poverty

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Coverage of poverty related stories in the media.


For the Poor, the Graduation Gap Is Even Wider Than the Enrollment Gap
By Susan Dynarski
The New York Times
June 2, 2015

Rich and poor students don’t merely enroll in college at different rates; they also complete it at different rates. The graduation gap is even wider than the enrollment gap.

In 2002, researchers with the National Center for Education Statistics started tracking a cohort of 15,000 high school sophomores. The project, called the Education Longitudinal Study, recorded information about the students’ academic achievement, college entry, work history and college graduation. A recent publication examines the completed education of these young people, who are now in their late 20s.


Counting Poor Students Is Getting Harder
By Anya Kamenetz
National Public Radio
May 10, 2015

Researchers, grant-makers and policymakers have long relied on enrollment numbers for the federally subsidized Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program. They use those numbers as a handy proxy for measuring how many students are struggling economically. The paperwork that families submit to show their income becomes the basis of billions in federal funds.

To be eligible for these programs, a family must earn no more than 85 percent above the poverty line. Just over half of public school students fit that description.


Transportation Emerges as Crucial to Escaping Poverty
By Mikayla Bouchard
The New York Times
May 7, 2015

James Baker was pedaling to work along a slick, snow-covered road in Frederick County, Md., when a traffic light changed abruptly. He braked and skidded to the ground, unhurt but making a mess of his clothes before a long day of work and school.

He was on his bicycle that snowy morning last December, about an hour northwest of Washington, because the bus service in Frederick was so erratic. Routes were far apart and the buses often late, making a 30-minute bike ride, whatever the weather, a better option.


An Atlas of Upward Mobility Shows Paths Out of Poverty
By David Leonhardt, Amanda Cox and Claire Cain Miller
The New York Times
May 4, 2015

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.


Driver’s License Suspensions Create Cycle of Debt
By Shaila Dewan
The New York Times
April 14, 2015

LEBANON, Tenn. — The last time Kenneth Seay lost his job, at an industrial bakery that offered health insurance and Christmas bonuses, it was because he had been thrown in jail for legal issues stemming from a revoked driver’s license. Same with the three jobs before that.

In fact, Mr. Seay said, when it comes to gainful employment, it is not his criminal record that is holding him back — he did time for dealing drugs — but the $4,509.22 in fines, court costs and reinstatement fees he must pay to recover his license.


A food stamps success story
By Miles Corak
December 10, 2014

It is an understatement to say that the welfare reforms of the 1990s were intended to give a little spring to the social safety net.

The intention was much more radical. The reforms involved a major make-over of income support, and turning what was imagined as a net ensnarling many Americans behind a welfare wall, into a springboard that would incentivize work and allow them to ride a wave of prosperity to higher incomes that would lift their children out of poverty.

But this kind of reform is hardly what is needed when times turn bad.


Solano County poverty summit addresses women, family issues
By Melissa Murphy
The Vacaville Reporter
November 18, 2014

While Solano County and the rest of the nation continues to show signs of moving past the recession, poverty among women continues to linger.

State and local representatives gathered Tuesday morning to hear about the impacts poverty has on women and collaborate on the needed steps to improve the situation.

A strong case for executive action
Faculty affiliates Erin Hamilton op-ed on immigrant families facing deportation

The Houston Chronicle- November 19, 2014

Deported parents face no good solutions to the dilemma of forced separation from their children: Either they remove their children from their country of citizenship, or deportees return to rejoin their children, facing harsh penalties if caught.

Many in Houston regularly face the terrible prospect.


More emergency food assistance going to working Americans, study finds
Public Broadcasting Service
August 18, 2014

Roughly one in seven people in the United States rely on food banks or other charitable organizations for basic nutrition, according to a new study by the nonprofit Feeding America. That number includes 25 percent of active military families, and an increased number of adult college students. Deborah Flateman, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank, joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss the crisis.


Working Anything but 9 to 5
By Jodi Kantor
The New York Times
August 13, 2014

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.


Is a Hard Life Inherited?
By Nicholas Kristof
The New York Times
August 9, 2014

YAMHILL, Ore. — ONE delusion common among America’s successful people is that they triumphed just because of hard work and intelligence.

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 were zygotes.


Summer Program For Hungry Kids Gets Creative With Food Delivery
By Pam Fessler
National Public Radio
July 23, 2014

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.


A Push to Give Steadier Shifts to Part-Timers
By Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times
July 15, 2014

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 practices.

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.


Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In
By Manny Fernandez and Clifford Krauss
The New York Times
June 29, 2014

GARDENDALE, Tex. — From the window of her tin-roofed trailer, Judy Vargas can glimpse a miraculous world. It is as close as the dust kicked up by the trucks barreling by but seems as distant as Mars.


Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?
By Alan Flippen
The New York Times
June 26, 2014

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.


In Texarkana, Uninsured and on the Wrong Side of a State Line
By Annie Lowrey
The New York Times
June 8, 2014

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.


Uncertainty About Jobs Has a Ripple Effect
By Alina Tugend
The New York Times
May 16, 2014

THE immediate impact of the recession — widespread buyouts and layoffs — may be fading, but the fear of losing a job hangs over workplaces like a cloud of worry.

“Perceived job insecurity,” as it is called, may be here to stay, and the latest studies show it has even more wide-ranging and serious effects on workers and companies than was once thought.


Changed Life of the Poor: Better Off, but Far Behind
By Annie Lowrey
The New York Times
April 30, 2014

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.


50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back
By Trip Gabriel
The New York Times
April 20, 2014

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.”


Finding A More Nuanced View Of Poverty’s ‘Black Hole’
By Pam Fessler
National Public Radio
April 2, 2014

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.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary ‘Convinced’ Rural Revitalization Plan Will Work
National Public Radio
January 15, 2014

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.


What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?
By Moises Velasquez-Manoff
The New York Times
January 18, 2014

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.


Kentucky County That Gave War On Poverty A Face Still Struggles
By Pam Fessler
National Public Radio
January 8, 2014

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.


In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary
By Eduardo Porter
The New York Times
December 17, 2013

When President Lyndon Johnson declared his war on poverty on Jan. 8, 1964, almost exactly 50 years ago, 19 percent of Americans were poor.
Economic Scene

“The richest nation on earth can afford to win it,” he reasoned, as he proposed a clutch of initiatives from expanding food stamps to revamping unemployment insurance. “We cannot afford to lose it.”

A half-century later, our priorities have changed.


Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance: How Tight Are the Strands of the Recessionary Safety Net?
By David H. Finifter and Mark A. Prell
United States Department of Agriculture
November 2013

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.


Poverty in 13 states is worse than we thought
By Niraj Chokshi
The Washington Post
November 8, 2013

There’s some good news and some bad news about poverty in America.

First, the bad: Poverty rates are higher than previously thought in 13 states and D.C. The good? Poverty rates are lower in 28 other states.


Cut in Food Stamps Forces Hard Choices on Poor
By Kim Severson
The New York Times
November 7, 2013

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 for breakfast.

And for many, it will mean turning to a food pantry or a soup kitchen by the middle of the month.


Ohio Governor Defies G.O.P. With Defense of Social Safety Net
By Trip Gabriel
The New York Times
October 28, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In his grand Statehouse office beneath a bust of Lincoln, Gov. John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in Washington.

“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 Awaits a Bold Antipoverty Plan
By Timothy Williams
The New York Times
October 14, 2013

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.


Growing Divide Between Young People Able to Go It Alone and Those Who Live at Home
By Neil Shah
The Wall Street Journal
October 9, 2013

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 University.


Being In The Minority Can Cost You And Your Company
by Shankar Vedantam
July 24, 2013

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 science research.

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 Research.


Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees
By Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Stephanie Clifford
June 30, 2013

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.


Living on Minimum Wage
June 15, 2013

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.


Poor hit hardest by Washington budget cuts
By Jennifer Liberto
May 24, 2013

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 as a Childhood Disease
By Perri Klass, M.D.
New York Times
May 13, 2013

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.


Long Prison Terms Eyed as Contributing to Poverty
John Tierney
NY Times
February 18, 2013

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 together.


Growth in Means-Tested Programs and Tax Credits for Low-Income Households
Congressional Budget Office
February 11, 2013

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.


Legislation proposed to help California launch healthcare overhaul
Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2013

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.


After Recession, More Young Adults Are Living on Street
Susan Saulny, New York Times

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.

Article Ann Huff Stevens

Center Director Ann Stevens Addresses California Lawmakers on Inequality in the State
December 7, 2011

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.

Article Atlantic Monthly

U.S. Income Inequality: It’s Worse Today Than It Was in 1774

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.

Article New York Times

Poverty Leveled Off Last Year, Even as Incomes Dropped

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.

Article New York Times

In One City, Signing Up for Internet Becomes a Civic Cause

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.”