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JCI Houston Impact Days 2015 Reverse Pitch on Poverty

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Presentation on theme: "JCI Houston Impact Days 2015 Reverse Pitch on Poverty"— Presentation transcript:

1 JCI Houston Impact Days 2015 Reverse Pitch on Poverty
Dr. Sheila Katz University of Houston Sociology Department

2 My Research and Teaching Interests:
Poverty and Inequality Gender/Women’s Experiences Access to Higher Education American Dream

3 Equality and Perceptions
Opportunities vary in our society based on positions in the social structure. These position vary by social characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, age, religion, nation of origin, veteran’s status, etc. One of the great misconceptions in American society is the perception of equality of opportunities. Opportunities are not equal for those in different positions in our social structure. People from different positions are achieving more than ever: election of an African American President, women’s growing equality in the workforce, or recent changes in marriage equality. Yet, these changes don’t uncover the whole picture…

4 Equality and Perceptions
Many gaps in equality still exist in our society. One example is the gendered wage gap—women make only 70 cents for every dollar men earn. The 113th Congress, sworn in January 2013, made a historic milestone. The new Congress is the “most diverse congress ever sworn in,” yet, women and minorities still make up only a minor percentage of the U.S. Congress.

5 Equality and Perceptions
And, some inequalities, particularly socio-economic inequalities, are getting worse. Over the last 30 years, U.S. wealth and income inequality has increased rather significantly.

6 Inequality and Perception KQnijnsM

7 Poverty and Inequality in US
15% of the U.S. population is poor—and consist of people who work for minimum and low wages, are under employed, or are chronically unemployed. They are sometimes referred to as the lower class or underclass. Poverty pervades all aspects of life Uncertainty of shelter, food, healthcare, transportation, and employment Most publicly visible consequence of poverty is homelessness Between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience some type of homelessness over the course of a year Typical poor family spends about 60% of after-tax income on housing Average middle-class homeowner about 23% Experience barriers to health care and education

8 Poverty Absolute poverty Relative poverty
Not having the minimal requirements a human being needs to survive. Relative poverty An lesser economic position compared to the living standards of the majority of a given society.

9 Measuring U.S. Poverty U.S. federal government measures absolute poverty. Poverty line (government calculation) amount of yearly income a family needs to meet its basic needs Developed in 1960s, based on amount needed for food times three (but measure is problematic). In 2014, the official US poverty line is $11,670 for an individual and $19,790 for a family of 3: Poverty Rate: percentage of U.S. residents whose income falls below the poverty line. In 2013 the U.S. poverty rate was 14.5%. html

10 Poverty Differences When used to describe national trends in poverty, the overall poverty rate can obscure important differences among subgroups of the population. For example, in 2009, 9.4% of people who identify themselves as non-Hispanic Whites and 12.5% of Asian Americans fell below the poverty line. That same year, 25.8% of Blacks and 25.3% of Latino/as (who could be of any race) were considered poor. The poverty rate in the South (15.7%) and West (14.8%) is higher than the rate in the Midwest (13.3%) and Northeast (12.2%). (above percentages are all from Iceland 2013). Finally, poverty is higher in rural areas (16.6%) than in metropolitan areas (13.9%), although it’s highest in inner cities (18.7%) (DeNavas-Walt, et al., 2010).

11 Near-Poor and Working Poor
Working full-time year round (40 hours a week) at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, annual earnings are approximately $14,500 ($1,208/month), which is just above the federal poverty threshold if no one else lives with him/her, and below the poverty line if s/he has any children. Those who earn just above the poverty line may be ineligible for many benefits, but this group can experience struggle. Unexpected emergencies take savings. U.S. Bureau of the Census is experimenting with a new calculation for poverty line to better account for regional differences in cost of living.

12 Social Safety Net The U.S. federal, state, and local governments use the official poverty line for eligibility purposes for social safety net programs such as welfare assistance, the “food stamp” program called SNAP, medical assistance, housing assistance, etc. Many social programs in the U.S. are considered entitlement based (if you meet criteria then you are entitled to the benefits). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Congress pushed to end entitlement for welfare assistance. Welfare was “reformed” in 1996 to no longer be entitlement based.

13 “End Welfare As We Know It”
Bill Clinton, while campaigning for President in October of 1991, pledged that“in a Clinton administration we’re going to put an end to welfare as we know it.” Ended welfare as an entitlement based program, and required “work activities” to receive assistance. However, ignored many of the actual causes of poverty and situations that “work first” was not an appropriate solution. In a climate in which “everybody hates welfare” (Ellwood 1988:4), the concept of ‘work first’ prevailed. In August 1996, H.R. 3734, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.

14 Welfare Reform: PRWORA 1996
PRWORA replaced AFDC with a state-implemented block grant program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The four goals of H.R (PRWORA 1996) were to: 1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives. 2) end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage. 3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies. 4) encourage the formation of two parent families. What is missing from this list?

15 Strategies for Women to Leave Poverty
Two primary individual-level strategies for women to leave welfare rolls after the passage of PRWORA: Get married or get a job. The marriage strategy is considered critical by policymakers and is the primary objective of PRWORA. However, poverty and welfare policies fail to acknowledge the prevalence of domestic violence. These policies also failed to acknowledge that women only earn 70¢ to every dollar that men earn. Policies also ignored or overlooked disabilities or medical caregiving work for self, children, and family.

16 Welfare to Work? (And what kind of work?)
“One of the goals of welfare reform was to emphasize work as a path to economic opportunity.” And for the most part this worked well, “between 1993 and 2000, the employment rate of single mothers increased from 57.3% to 72.8%, with gains concentrated among never married mothers, those most at risk of poverty.” (Lower-Basch 2011: 2). Many of those jobs though were not full-time year round positions at wages that could support a family or with critical benefits like medical care, paid sick leave, or retirement benefits. But, “credit for this increase must be shared between the overall growth of the economy and expansions of work supports such as the EITC, child care subsidies, public health insurance, and improved child support enforcement and distribution, as well as welfare reform.” (2011: 2). However, this improvement was short-lived and stalled after 2000, and then fell to only 65.8% by the end of the Great Recession. (Lower-Basch 2011).

17 The Great Recession Longest post-war recession, with “its origins in a unusually dramatic financial crisis.” (Grusky, Western, & Widmer 2010: 4) Included an “increase in joblessness has been greater, the long-term unemployed are a larger fraction of total employment, and the recovery of the labor market, in terms of job growth and falling unemployment, has been very slow” (2010: 4). The Great Recession had a deep impact on American families, especially those who were low-income. Research shows that low-income families are usually the first to feel the effects of the recession or an economic downturn, and as a group they are some of the last to recover from a recession.

18 Recent U.S. Poverty More people experienced economic struggles during the Great Recession than in any other time in the last 40 years. Low-income and near low-income adults are working more but are falling behind economically. The number of adults who are working poor has doubled in the U.S. since 2000, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. The poverty rate in the U.S. increased every year during the Great Recession, and only in 2013 started to just barely fall. I expect this year it will fall again just slightly, but I do not expect it to fall much. Extreme poverty has grown from 1/4 of the poor to almost 1/2 of the poor. These are families who are living on less than half of the federal poverty line. Child poverty rates are also high and not falling as the economy recovers.

19 Poverty Rates During GR
The welfare reform “work first approach” encouraged work instead of welfare receipt. So, the welfare rate dropped without addressing the condition of low-wage workers in America. As a result, the welfare caseloads dropped dramatically, but the poverty rate did not fall. U.S. national poverty rate is now higher than when welfare reform was passed in 1996. Since the start of the Great Recession, the U.S. poverty rate increased each year, and was at 15.3% in 2011 (Census 2012). Poverty rate is now at 14.5%, the first time it has started to fall since 2006 (Census 2014). Since poverty was not decreasing significantly, but the number of families on welfare was decreasing dramatically, maybe we should question the logic of calling welfare reform a success?

20 Increases in the Working Poor
Now, approximately 10.5 million adults are among the “working poor.” “Working Poor” is defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as “individuals who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force, but whose incomes fall below the official poverty level” (2011). The number of adults in the U.S. who are working but still poor has increased by almost double since 2000 (US Dept. Labor 2002/2011).

21 Social Safety Net During GR
For the first time since TANF was implemented, the numbers of families on welfare is increasing. However, research shows that while food stamp use has increased by increase from 28.2 million recipients in 2008 to the present, 46.2 million recipients in 2011, an increase of roughly 64%. By the time the Great Recession hit, many families had reached their lifetime limits on welfare and were not eligible for any safety net services. Only 30% of poor families who would be otherwise eligible for TANF actually receive it. TANF has been called the “least responsive” social program during the Great Recession (MDRC 2010 and California Budget Project 2011).

22 GR Increases Deep Poverty
Employment increases for TANF families slowed by 2001 and stalled completely before the Great Recession even began (Acs and Loprest 2007). From 2007 to 2010, employment rates for single mothers in California dropped by 10.4% and completely erased all the employment gains made by them since welfare reform was implemented, but now without a safety net to fall back on Therefore the modest economic gains that low-income or single parent families made in the early years after welfare reform and during the booming economy of the late 1990s, eroded completely when families started reaching their lifetime limits on assistance amidst a stalling economy, and then further deteriorated during the Great Recession (California Budget Project 2012).

23 Role of Charities and Nonprofits
Many believed that after Welfare Reform, charities and nonprofits would fill the void left by the limited aid under welfare reform. Charities and nonprofits do serve a critical role in this time of decreased social safety net assistance. However, charities and nonprofits that serve low-income families are not able to fully cover the gap between need in most communities. The need is just too great.

24 Research with Low-Income Families
In 2006, I conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with 45 mothers on CalWORKs (California’s TANF program) pursuing higher education in San Francisco and Alameda Counties (Oakland). Participants were recruited through community colleges and universities in San Francisco and Alameda (Oakland) Counties, through the centers on campus that serve low-income student parents, and through Low-Income Families’ Empowerment through Education (LIFETIME), a grassroots advocacy organization for mothers on welfare pursuing higher education. Follow-up interviews conducted in 2008 with 25 participants. Third interviews conducted in 2011 with 35 of original 45 participants (78% retention rate).

25 Research with Low-Income Families NEEDS: During the research low-income mothers who were college students were asked three primary questions about resources: What resources do you use? What resources do you need? What resources do you know about but do not use?

26 Family Needs The mothers had to meet the basic needs of their families, their own and their families’ emotional and physical health requirements, and also meeting their needs as students. Five basic categories of needs: Physical and Material: housing, utilities, food, cash, clothing, transportation Work or Educational: transportation to work, work clothes, books/supplies, tutoring, remedial assistance, access to technology or a computer, and accommodations for dis/abilities Health: access to ongoing health, dental, eye care for self and children and accommodation for disabilities Emotional: therapy, support groups or networks, sense of belonging or contact with other low-income families, and accommodations for mental health issues Family: ongoing child care, drop-in or sick child care, and family-friendly child-care options

27 SURVIVAL RESOURCES Public assistance: county or state welfare, such as TANF, food stamps, section 8, Medicaid, SSI, and child support enforcement Local community organizations: churches, nonprofits, charities, advocacy or grassroots groups Family: immediate, extended or children’s father(s) may fill in the remaining gaps by providing money and more intangible resources such as time and emotional support Friends: other low-income families or others who are not low- income Individual coping strategies: time management, taking time for one’s self, and knowing one’s limits But a gap still exists between their needs and all possible sources.

28 Charities and Nonprofits During the Great Recession
Charities and nonprofits serve an increasingly important part of the gap between need and governmental services. However, many charities and nonprofits that serve low-income families struggled deeply during the recent recession. More families needed help at the same time as donations to support charities and nonprofits were down and state and federal programs cut grants and funding assistance to those groups.

29 GR Highlighted the Needs Gap
It was a perfect storm of increased need and decreased resources. The groups did what they could, but many needs of low-income families went unmet. To me, this illustrated the flaw in the logic of expecting charities and nonprofits to pick up the slack when we cut governmental social safety net programs. These groups are doing amazing work, but when need is up and donations are down—this is the time that social safety net support could be increased at the federal level. However, until that happens…

30 Understanding the Needs Gap
Created a needs gap between the support or services that federal, state, and local governments provide and those that local charities can provide. Many needs that low-income families have go unmet. How to meet those needs?

31 The Pitch Social entrepreneurs could help close that needs gap.
Design a solution that could be: Resource based Center based Person to person (or network) based Could use technology to create social connections between resources and people.

32 Successful Solutions To design a successful solution:
Question your own assumptions about poverty and inequality. Uncover the invisible privilege of dominant groups—so maybe being middle/upper class, educated, white, male, or heterosexual. Need to understand that trust is a class based social emotion.

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