RSS

Tag Archives: post racial life

Why the Poor Stay Poor in America

In summary – America is Failing

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.

Where you are born counts… What you should notice is that the Red State South still serves as the boat anchor holding the rest of the country back. That is in huge reason today due to failed Republican Tax CUt policies necessitating a reduction in every service from social services to education. You get what you pay for, and in the case of conservative tax cut and slash policy – what you get is stagnant economic mobility. Ergo the poor stay poor.

In America, the Poorer You Are, the Poorer Your Children Will Be

This country’s terrible social safety net is making it impossible for working-class parents to keep up with their wealthier peers.

When people talk about “balancing work and family,” they’re usually talking more about the workplace than what’s going on at home. Now we’re starting to get data on what the workaday life looks like from a kid’s eye view, and it doesn’t look good.

When debating the issue of work-life balance, arguments over unlimited vacation and employment discrimination center around women’s barriers to opportunity—the perennial glass ceiling that Anne Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg rage at when lamenting not “having it all.” For working-class folks crushed by on-call schedules or poverty wages, it’s often hard to find any life outside work, let alone to balance work and family lives. But centering the conversation not on career ambition but the life course of a family helps put the false dichotomy of work vs. life in perspective.

In their new book “Too Many Children Left Behind,”Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washbrook help illuminate these gaps by comparing the impacts of inequality across four wealthy countries—the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They found that poor children in the US are “doubly disadvantaged relative to their peers in the other three countries” because the government’s “social safety net and supports for working families do the least among the four countries to combat inequality”—particularly our national lack of guaranteed paid time off and vacation.

That’s old news, but the center of the researchers’ narrative is not necessarily workers’ lives but their children’s. Poverty limits access to basic resources like nutrition and decent childcare. But a geometrically expanding class divide looms over all income brackets, as wealthier parents zealously splurge on “enrichment expenditures”:

spending on books, computers, high-quality child care, summer camps, private schooling, and other resources that offer a motivating and nurturing environment for children. A generation or more ago, during the early 1970s, a typical family in the top fifth of the income distribution spent about $3,850 per year on resources like these, four times as much as the typical family at the bottom of the income distribution, which spent about $925…. by 2005 it had grown tremendously, to $9,800 versus $1,400.

So poor parents struggling just to cover basic food and shelter face both massive income inequality in their day-to-day lives, plus a seven-fold gap in the amount they can “invest” to help their children thrive in the future. Given that social mobility is already suppressed at all income levels—with children’s future earnings highly correlated with the earnings of their parents—the Herculean amount of “catch up” poor parents must undertake just to get on the same footing as their higher-earning peers makes the great American wealth gap seem even more devastating, for both today’s working households and generations to come.

Moreover, the gender gap straddles the class divide: the “earnings advantage” provided by parents’ wealth, or lack thereof, is skewed against women. A child is likely to inherit a greater share of his dad’s wealth than mom’s. Beyond the perennial “equal pay” debate and the simplistic notion of “78 cents on the dollar,” how does that reality of gender inequality play out in family dynamics, in those difficult late-night conversations on who should stay home with a newborn, or stay late at the office?

But the most enduring impact of these deficits may be impossible to quantify. Economic disadvantage intertwined with structural inequality has a savage effect on a child’s long-term educational prospects—including basic preschool-level skills, like language aptitude and sociability, and failing primary-school grades. And the “achievement gap” (which is itself a notion often politicized with complex racial biases) has folded into a deepening black-white education divide over the last three decades.

Other research has revealed that economic status is a growing factor in academic outcomes, as “the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply” over the last 50 years. So wealth trumps intellect on many levels.

Closing the gap takes more systemic solutions than just “leaning in.” Class lines reflect a deficit of democracy, created by neglect of government institutions. Research suggests much of the education gap is perpetuated or aggravated while children are wending through the highly segregated school system.

Co-author Jane Waldfogel says via e-mail that in addition to better workplace benefits, policy solutions might come through richer, more accessible early education and childcare: “Universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds would help level the playing field by ensuring that all preschoolers receive educationally oriented early education (rather than the case now, where more affluent families can buy preschool, while lower income families have to make do with lower quality care).”

Federal programs like Head Start and childcare subsidies have for years suffered massive funding gaps, leaving tens of thousands of kids underserved. But some states are directing resources into expanding preschool—with pioneering programs in New York City—though it remains to be seen whether lawmakers who have failed to adequately fund K-12 are really willing to invest enough public dollars in the long-term to create a sustainable universal pre-K system.

Waldfogel’s research reveals a need for not just income supports but simply less need to work all the time. For young children of parents who are either out working around the clock, or constantly stressed at home, overwork translates into a materially and emotionally impoverished home environment. During the developmental years, research shows “inequalities in income and family resources are in turn linked with disparities in more proximal factors such as books in the home, lessons and activities outside the home, and parents’ spanking.”

Although many factors shape a household’s social climate, the connection between a parents’ economic frustrations and a pattern of a lack of nurture, even cruelty at home, suggests a troubling through-line in this inheritance of inequity: Wealth doesn’t trickle down, yet economic violence does.…More…

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Etcetera and Pet Peeves

Best T-Shirt of the (Take note T-Shirts)

“Trust Me, I’m and Engineer”

Pet peeve of the day – This one is at the top near the folks who find reason to stop at the bottom of the seemingly 3 mile long, DC Metro Subway escalators during rush hour. You can usually spot them due to the numerous Ferragamo Footprints across their bodies and attire –

Fat assed woman in pink tight pants walking down the center of the parking isle blocking cars in both directions. Started to say something until I noticed what I originally thought were panty lines were actually the grill imprint from a Dodge 3500 Pickup Truck.

I think the truck lost.

Seeing that my little deuce and 1/2 ton SUV was outclassed…

I made like a gentleman and quietly followed to the first open space at a distance.

Next Peeve –  People Who Drive in blind spots

Couple of real simple rules when going down the superhighway with 18 wheelers. First and foremost is you don’t park your little Toyota Prius just behind the cab ( the part with the driver in it) at 62.5 miles per hour running along beside the truck, speeding up and slowing down as he does to maintain your position…

Because he can’t see your dumb ass.

Coming up the highway Sunday, I watched a moron actually have to relearn this lesson 3 times with 3 separate trucks in 50 miles, slamming on the brakes each time to avoid being converted into road confetti, as the trucks moved to pass even slower vehicles.

Leading to BT’s Bug Splat equation – ergo : Mass of Car x (times) Speed – (minus) Mass of Bug x Speed = Mass of Car x Speed. Ergo a bug hitting the windshield…

Doesn’t slow the car down (although the bug no longer notices). Same equation works for big trucks and small cars, Big ships and sailboats – and in China, Tanks and protesters.

This rule also is known as the “Saturday morning rule” at your local lumber supply, Home Depot or Lowes. Guy pushing large cart loaded with 200 2×4’s cannot stop such cart on a dime. Letting your 3 year old run though the lumberyard betwixt the aisles unattended while you decide on the chartreuse or pink Trex, is not only irritating as hell to the guy trying to push the 6 wheel, heavily loaded cart with at least one wheel stuck pointing the wrong way and another which won’t turn – because he can’t stop it…

It’s a good way to trim the old family tree.

Comment on NASCAR trying to recruit black drivers

All you guys have to do is to position several of your best drivers along Rt 50 in Maryland, between the Interstate 95, and the Bowie/301 exit. Your best drivers? That’s to be able to catch the folks screaming along at 90 – 110 MPH weaving through 70 MPH heavy traffic. These guys (and gals) are already trained, so all you need to do is get them a sponsor, and put them on the track.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 15, 2009 in The Post-Racial Life

 

Tags: , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: