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Archive for the ‘Intergenerational Poverty’ Category

Last week, CAP was excited to welcome the IDEO.org team to Tulsa. Since the kick-off meeting last Tuesday, they have been getting to know more about CAP programs, the families we serve and the city of Tulsa in general. (Also of note: I hear our visitors have been introduced to Oklahoma BBQ, which as most of you know, is an important piece of our cultural heritage.) But most importantly, over the next several weeks, they will be analyzing the needs of CAP’s clients to help us maximize the likelihood families will take advantage of the opportunities we offer to tackle inter-generational poverty.

By taking a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty, CAP not only seeks to provide quality early childhood education but also actively engage parents and offer services that benefit  the entire family.  Through services such as Free Tax Preparation, CareerAdvance ® and the First-Time Homebuyer’s Program, CAP has already become a leader in maximizing earned income and building assets.  However, there is always more we can learn, which is where IDEO.org comes in.

IDEO.org was born out of a desire to better serve clients in the social sector.  (more…)

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As an anti-poverty agency, CAP’s ultimate vision is that the children we serve today move up the economic ladder so that when they are adults their children are not born into poverty.  But according to a new study by the Pew Economic Mobility Project, the headwinds facing Oklahomans are particularly strong.

An interactive map shows clearly Oklahoma, along with Louisiana and South Carolina, have worse than average mobility rates on three measures — absolute mobility (residents’ average earnings growth over time), relative mobility (residents’ rank on the earnings ladder relative to their peers), and updward / downward movement along that ladder.  Another six states perform worse than the national average on two of the three measures.  Interestingly, Texas and Florida, states without income taxes, are two of those six states.

The study looked at average earnings of adults ages 35-39 between 1978 and 1997, and compared them to average earnings of the same sample ten years later.  14% of the Oklahomans experienced absolute mobility, compared to 17% as a national average, and a maximium of 23% in Connecticuit.  Relative upward mobility was higher across the board than absolute mobility – 30% in Oklahoma compared to 34% national average and a high of 49%, again in Connecticuit.  But, 33% of the Oklahomans experienced downward economic mobility, compared to 28% nationally.  And this was before the economic recession of 2008.

The study did not analyze why some states offer better or worse opportunities for residents to move up the earnings ladder.  Pew’s larger study on mobility, however, demonstrates that a host of factors including postsecondary educational attainment, savings and assets, and neighborhood povery during childhood — all factors where Oklahoma falls short — matter.  In other words, there is no silver bullet.  States must consider the context in which its citizens build human capital and figure out how to support that growth.

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In Utah, conservative state Senator Stuart C. Reid sponsored the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act.  The bill requires the state to build and maintain a system to track  intergenerational poverty in the state.  The bill received bipartisan support in the state’s legislature and from advocacy groups across the state.  No matter your political persuasion or your feelings on government spending, you have to concede that we need more data to support both decision-making and policy making surrounding poverty and the programs designed to mitigate its effects. 

As a data person and public administration nerd, I am interested to see how everything shakes out when the bill is implemented.  Someone remind me to come back to this in 6 months or a year!

For more discussion on the bill check out Jodie Levin-Epstein’s, Deputy Direct of CLASP, article “Painting a Picture of Poverty in Utah: By the Numbers” on Huffington Post. 

For the full text of the bill, click here.

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Research indicates that children living in poverty are at risk for a whole host of poor child and adolescent outcomes, especially if that poverty occurs early in childhood.  New research also indicates that childhood poverty can have a significant impact on adult outcome measures.  Possible reasons for the increased impact of early childhood poverty are also beginning to emerge.  Two articles in the Winter 2011 issue of Pathways  investigate these  concepts and how policymakers can use this research to inform better anti-poverty policies. 

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When my friends ask me about my job or what CAP does, I have a short elevator speech about ending the cycle of poverty by helping families become more economically mobile.  Some of my friends politely nod and smile, much like I do when my engineer friends try to explain their jobs.  Others have questions; they are curious about the cycle of poverty and economic mobility.   Most have a basic understanding of what economic mobility is; they understand that people move up and down the economic ladder.  But things can get muddy when we begin to talk about intragenerational (within a single generation) and intergenerational (across generations, like from parent to child) mobility, especially when you have an accent like mine.  The most confusing part for me to explain is the differences between absolute mobility and relative mobility. Absolute mobility is the change in a person’s economic condition over time, both within a lifetime or across generations.  Relative mobility, on the other hand, is the movement of individuals or families relative to others in society.

Explaining definitions to my curious friends would not be enough.  No, they like me, want numbers.  They want to know the current status of economic mobility in the US.  But, even more than that, they want to know what we should be working toward.  While, I am a nerd, I don’t have this kind of data stored in my brain or my phone or in some hidden part of my unusually large purse.  So, I had to go find it.  In his essay “Promoting Defiant Apples: Exploring the Potential of an Economic Mobility Policy Agenda,” Ray Boshara from the New America Foundation  gave me what I was looking for.  A well researched, concise look at both the current state of economic mobility in the US and where he thinks we should be headed.  According to Boshara’s research, the current state of economic mobility looks like this: (more…)

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Last week, the Food Research and Action Center suggested a strategy for ending childhood hunger by 2015, a goal to which President Obama committed during his Presidential campaign. The strategy includes:

  • Restoring economic growth and creating jobs with better wages for lower-income workers
  • Raising the incomes of the lowest-income families
  • Strengthening the SNAP/Food Stamp Program
  • Strengthening the Child Nutrition Programs
  • Engaging the entire federal government in ending childhood hunger
  • Working with states, localities, and nonprofits to expand and improve participation in federal nutrition programs
  • Making sure all families have convenient access to reasonably priced, healthy food

It’s exciting to see the alignment with projects we’ve been working on at CAP, particularly the many iterations of work toward increasing participation in public benefit programs.

At the same time, it’s promising to hear a national advocacy group like FRAC balance targeted short-term strategies with the reminder that “parents want jobs and good wages… as the means to support their families” and that public benefits alone “can’t carry the whole burden.”

As critical as nutrition supports are for addressing immediate needs, relying on these to serve an ever growing number of families is neither sustainable nor desirable. What is desirable is for each successive generation of families—regardless of the circumstances they’re born into—to be better prepared to succeed in the workforce so that fewer must rely on these programs in the first place—the essential focus of the “dual-generation” strategy being adopted by more and more antipoverty groups, including CAP.

Of course, it’s not a bad political line either. As the FRAC report puts it, “dramatically reducing hunger and poverty while the economy declines is swimming against too strong a tide.” The economy as a “tide”—where have I heard that before?

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The Economist reports on a new study linking stress to intergenerational poverty.  Research conducted a few years ago demonstrated that the “working memories” of children in poverty had less capacity than those of middle income children.  This in turn impeded the ability of children to learn, since they cannot store as much information in their RAM (if you will) as wealthier children.

The new research establishes that this reduced capacity is “almost certainly the result” of stresses suffered during childhood. Researchers used statistical techniques to control for general poverty to conclude that chronic stress is the likely culprit.

I don’t take this to mean that conditions of poverty are unimportant in a child’s development, of course.  But the emerging links between stressors and all kinds of long-term negative outcomes – particularly ill health – is interesting.  Of note is work on Adverse Childhood Experiences and the PBS series on stress and health inequalities.

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