Tag Archives | Poverty

It’s not a lack of self-control that keeps people poor

The Sleeper
When considering poverty, our national conversation tends to overlook systemic causes. Instead, we often blame the poor for their poverty. Commentators echo the claim that people are poor because they have bad self-control and therefore make nearsighted choices. But psychology research says the opposite might be the case: poverty makes it hard for people to care about the future and forces them to live in the present.

As a researcher who studies goals and motivation, I wanted to know how self-control works and if science can help us get better at it. Poverty seemed like a good place to start, because greater self-control could be especially helpful there. In fact, the federal Administration for Children and Families is adding character-skills training to its programs in efforts to improve self-control among children.

But as I started this work I was surprised by all the reasons that it’s so hard for people in poverty to have good self-control.… Read the rest

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Poverty’s Most Insidious Damage Is to a Child’s Brain

Low-income children have irregular brain development and lower standardized test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.  Brian Chua (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Low-income children have irregular brain development and lower standardized test scores, with as much as an estimated 20 percent gap in achievement explained by developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Brian Chua (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Washington University in St. Louis Via ScienceDaily:

An alarming 22 percent of U.S. children live in poverty, which can have long-lasting negative consequences on brain development, emotional health and academic achievement. A new study, published July 20 in JAMA Pediatrics, provides even more compelling evidence that growing up in poverty has detrimental effects on the brain.

In an accompanying editorial, child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, writes that “early childhood interventions to support a nurturing environment for these children must now become our top public health priority for the good of all.”

In her own research in young children living in poverty, Luby and her colleagues have identified changes in the brain’s architecture that can lead to lifelong problems with depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress.

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The remarkably high odds you’ll be poor at some point in your life

If you’re not poor now, there’s a good chance you once were or will be eventually, per the Washington Post:

The poor in America are not a permanent class of people. Who’s poor in any given year is different from who’s poor a few years later.

We Accept Food Stamps

Census data on who participates in assistance programs suggests as much. But Mark Rank, a sociologist at Washington University, has for several years been compiling far more comprehensive evidence of this pattern. He and colleagues have been studying the economic fortunes of several thousand families in the longest running longitudinal survey in America, going all the way back to 1968. Follow people over a really long period of time, they’ve found, and an incredible number of them experience economic insecurity at some point.

In fact, a vast majority do.

By the time they’re 60 years old, Rank has found, nearly four in five people experience some kind of economic hardship: They’ve gone through a spell of unemployment, or spent time relying on a government program for the poor like food stamps, or lived at least one year in poverty or very close to it.

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Chris Hedges: Make the Rich Panic

David Shankbone (CC BY 2.0)

David Shankbone (CC BY 2.0)

Over at Truthdig, Chris Hedges writes an impassioned call to action: “destroy the system.” Maybe it’s time…

Chris Hedges writes at Truthdig:

It does not matter to the corporate rich who wins the presidential election. It does not matter who is elected to Congress. The rich have the power. They throw money at their favorites the way a gambler puts cash on his favorite horse. Money has replaced the vote. The wealthy can crush anyone who does not play by their rules. And the political elites—slobbering over the spoils provided by their corporate masters for selling us out—understand the game. Barack and Michelle Obama, as did the Clintons, will acquire many millions of dollars once they leave the White House. And your elected representative in the House or Senate, if not a multimillionaire already, will be one as soon as he or she retires from government and is handed seats on corporate boards or positions in lobbying firms.

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Detroit’s Alter Road divide

alter road and brooks street

A fence erected just past the Alter Rd and Brooks St intersection, preventing travelers by foot and vehicle from getting into Grosse Pointe Park by that road

Michigan’s 8 Mile road became world famous with the rise of Eminem. We all know the story. One side is in the city of Detroit, one side is the city of Warren. One side is mostly white, the other mostly black. Both sides of 8 Mile are poverty stricken neighborhoods yet the locals see 8 Mile as more than a divide between cities, they see it as a divide between cultures and peoples. Less famous is Detroit’s other Berlin wall of a road, Alter road. Unlike 8 Mile it runs completely within the limits of Detroit but residents view it as a dividing line of cultures and lifestyles between the poverty stricken blight of Detroit and an affluent predominantly white Grosse Pointe Park.

The divide is more visible here than it is at 8 Mile.… Read the rest

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Guilty of Being Poor: When a Community Issues Arrest Warrants for More Offenses than It Has Residents, Something’s Deeply Wrong

ann harkness (CC BY 2.0)

ann harkness (CC BY 2.0)

Karen Dolan writes at OtherWords:

Here’s something you might not know about Ferguson, Missouri: In this city of 21,000 people, 16,000 have outstanding arrest warrants. In fact, in 2013 alone, authorities issued 9,000 warrants for over 32,000 offenses.

That’s one-and-a-half offenses for every resident of Ferguson in just one year.

Most of the warrants are for minor offenses such as traffic or parking violations. And they’re part of a structural pattern of abuse, according to a recent Department of Justice investigation.

The damning report found that the city prioritized aggressive revenue collection over public safety. It documented unconstitutional policing, violations of due process, and racial bias against the majority black population.

One woman’s story illustrates what’s happening to more and more people as municipal revenues become the focus of police departments all over the country.

It began with a parking ticket back in 2007, which saddled a low-income black woman with a $151 fine and extra fees.

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It’s Poverty, Not the ‘Teenage Brain,’ That Causes the Most Youth Crime

Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)

Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)

Lauren Kirchner writes at The Pacific Standard:

While trading stories about the wide range of things that confused us when we were young children, a friend described how afraid he used to be of teenagers. He wasn’t afraid of any actual young adults in his life, but rather the capital-T teenagers he heard about when his parents watched the local news on TV every evening. It seemed to his nervous ears as though the police were always on the hunt for some devious, dangerous Teenagers who had committed some crime or another in his town.

Compounding his confusion was the vague knowledge that all of the adults in his life were once themselves teenagers. If being a Teenager necessarily meant committing crimes, then what had his parents and grandparents and teachers done in their day, he wondered? And how did they all seem to have gotten away with it?

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What that Black and Blue (or White and Gold) Dress Teaches us about our Over-Privileged Lives (Hint: It’s not what You Think)

Harlem Trash Ioan Sameli (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Harlem Trash
Ioan Sameli (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  1.  I’m sure that many (most?) Disinfonauts are familiar with this irrationally infamous Black and Blue dress. It was all over the interwebz for several days last week, to an extent that it was basically the only thing one could read about in certain corners of it. I’m sure many of you thought it was a waste of time. A trifling and trivial thing to devote so much energy on.

There are certainly a number of valid reasons for feeling as much. But I didn’t. I found the whole thing fascinating. Legitimately so. The situation roused a certain wonder within me that I don’t feel near enough these days. I found it incredible that people could look at the same exact picture and see two so wildly distinct and divergent things. Moreover, it was stupefying that most people saw the dress as white and gold when its real color was the less common sight of black and blue.… Read the rest

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How Expensive It Is to Be Poor

The excellent Charles M. Blow dissects a Pew Center report entitled “The Politics of Financial Insecurity” for the New York Times:

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”


This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.

“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.

Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.

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Inequity is at a boiling point in today’s America

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via Times-Standard

Communities all over the country are struggling to find answers to the issue of the increasing numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty. Most of those communities are themselves struggling with budget problems and, at best, are only able to come up with Band-Aid solutions. What’s happening here in the richest country in the world? Do we just have a lot of lazy people?

Let’s take a look at some numbers (compiled by Bill Moyers and Company): families of 4 living on less than $11,510 (poverty level for one person) number 20.4 million, that’s 1 in 15 Americans, 7.1 million are children; 25 percent of U.S. jobs pay below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000/year; in 2011 28 percent of all workers earned poverty level wages. Overall 50 percent of U.S. workers earn less than $34,000/year.

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