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Ending poverty requires more than growth, says WBG

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Ending poverty requires more than growth, says WBG
Source: World Bank

While economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits, according to a new World Bank paper released today. Countries need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor. These resources can be distributed through the growth process itself, by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programs, such as conditional and direct cash transfers.

In addition, the paper notes, it is imperative not just to lift people out of extreme poverty; it is also important to make sure that, in the long run, they do not get stuck just above the extreme poverty line due to a lack of opportunities that might impede progress toward better livelihoods.

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Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Does poverty lead to crime? We shed light on this question using two independent and exogenous shocks to household income in rural India: the dramatic reduction in import tariffs in the early 1990s and rainfall variations. We find that trade shocks, previously shown to raise relative poverty, also increased the incidence of violent crimes and property crimes. The relationship between trade shocks and crime is similar to the observed relationship between rainfall shocks and crime. Our results thus identify a causal effect of poverty on crime. They also lend credence to a large literature on the effects of weather shocks on crime and conflict, which has usually assumed that the income channel is the most relevant one.

CRS — Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: Programs and Policy Issues

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: Programs and Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

As communities face a variety of economic challenges, some are looking to local banks and financial institutions for solutions that address the specific development needs of low-income and distressed communities. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provide financial products and services, such as mortgage financing for homebuyers and not-for-profit developers, underwriting and risk capital for community facilities; technical assistance; and commercial loans and investments to small, start-up, or expanding businesses. CDFIs include regulated institutions, such as community development banks and credit unions, and nonregulated institutions, such as loan and venture capital funds.

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (the Fund), an agency within the Department of the Treasury, administers several programs that encourage the role of CDFIs, and similar organizations, in community development. Nearly 1,000 financial institutions located throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia are eligible for the Fund’s programs to provide financial and technical assistance to meet the needs of businesses, homebuyers, community developers, and investors in distressed communities. In addition, the Fund allocates the New Markets Tax Credit to more than 5,000 eligible investment vehicles in low-income communities (LICs).

This report begins by describing the Fund’s history, current appropriations, and each of its programs. A description of the Fund’s process of certifying certain financial institutions to be eligible for the Fund’s program awards follows. The next section provides an overview of each program’s purpose, use of award proceeds, eligibility criteria, and relevant issues for Congress.

The final section analyzes four policy considerations of congressional interest, regarding the Fund and the effective use of federal resources to promote economic development.

See also: Community Development Block Grants: Funding Issues in the 113th Congress (PDF)

Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Doctors, lawyers and criminal justice agencies need methods to assess vulnerability to violent radicalization. In synergy, public health interventions aim to prevent the emergence of risk behaviours as well as prevent and treat new illness events. This paper describes a new method of assessing vulnerability to violent radicalization, and then investigates the role of previously reported causes, including poor self-reported health, anxiety and depression, adverse life events, poverty, and migration and socio-political factors. The aim is to identify foci for preventive intervention.

Methods
A cross-sectional survey of a representative population sample of men and women aged 18–45, of Muslim heritage and recruited by quota sampling by age, gender, working status, in two English cities. The main outcomes include self-reported health, symptoms of anxiety and depression (common mental disorders), and vulnerability to violent radicalization assessed by sympathies for violent protest and terrorist acts.

Results
2.4% of people showed some sympathy for violent protest and terrorist acts. Sympathy was more likely to be articulated by the under 20s, those in full time education rather than employment, those born in the UK, those speaking English at home, and high earners (>£75,000 a year). People with poor self-reported health were less likely to show sympathies for violent protest and terrorism. Anxiety and depressive symptoms, adverse life events and socio-political attitudes showed no associations.

Conclusions
Sympathies for violent protest and terrorism were uncommon among men and women, aged 18–45, of Muslim heritage living in two English cities. Youth, wealth, and being in education rather than employment were risk factors.

Social disadvantage, genetic sensitivity, and children’s telomere length

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Social disadvantage, genetic sensitivity, and children’s telomere length (PDF)
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

This paper makes two contributions to research on the link between the social environment and health. Using data from a birth cohort study, we show that, among African American boys, those who grow up in highly disadvantaged environments have shorter telomeres (at age 9) than boys who grow up in highly advantaged environments. We also find that the association between the social environment and telomere length (TL) is moderated by genetic variation within the serotonin and dopamine pathways. Boys with the highest genetic sensitivity scores had the shortest TL when exposed to disadvantaged environments and the longest TL when exposed to advantaged environments. To our knowledge, this report is the first to document a gene–social environment interaction for TL, a biomarker of stress exposure.

See: Stressful environments genetically affect African American boys (Science Daily)

New State-by-State Analysis: 32 Million Were Underinsured in 2012, Including 4 Million Middle-Income People; Nearly 80 Million in Total Lacked Health Insurance or Were Underinsured, Ranging from 14 Percent in Massachusetts to 38 Percent in New Mexico and Texas

April 11, 2014 Comments off

New State-by-State Analysis: 32 Million Were Underinsured in 2012, Including 4 Million Middle-Income People; Nearly 80 Million in Total Lacked Health Insurance or Were Underinsured, Ranging from 14 Percent in Massachusetts to 38 Percent in New Mexico and Texas
Source: Commonwealth Fund

Thirty-two million people under age 65 were underinsured in the U.S. in 2012, meaning they had health coverage but it provided inadequate protection against high health care costs relative to their income, a new Commonwealth Fund report finds. The first report to examine the underinsured at the state level, it finds that the rate of underinsured ranged from a low of 8 percent in New Hampshire to highs of 16 percent in Mississippi and Tennessee and 17 percent in Idaho and Utah.

Low- and middle-income families were most likely to be affected: 13 percent—4 million—of the underinsured were middle-income, earning between about $47,000 and $95,000 for a family of four, and 81 percent—26 million—were low-income, earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or under $47,000 a year for a family of four.

In addition, 47 million people were uninsured in 2012—a decline of nearly 2 million from 2010, likely due in large part to the Affordable Care Act’s early provision to expand dependent coverage for young adults.

Before the major expansions of the ACA began to be implemented this year, a total of 79 million people under 65 were uninsured or underinsured, and therefore at risk for not being able to afford needed health care or for facing debt from medical bills in 2012. Nationally, nearly one of three (29%) people were uninsured or underinsured, ranging from 14 percent in Massachusetts to 36 to 38 percent in Florida, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas.

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and health insurance reforms are appropriately targeted to those Americans who are most likely to be unable to afford insurance or needed health care, according to the report, America’s Underinsured: A State-by-State Look at Health Insurance Affordability Prior to the New Coverage Expansions. Based on their incomes alone, 20 million of the underinsured in 2012, as well as 24 million of the uninsured, would qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

However, millions who are poor will not have any new coverage options. In states choosing not to expand Medicaid, more than 15 million underinsured and uninsured people have incomes below poverty—earning less than $23,550 a year for a family of four

Moving Forward: Family Planning in the Era of Health Reform

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Moving Forward: Family Planning in the Era of Health Reform (PDF)
Source: Guttmacher Institute
From press release:

The highly successful U.S. family planning effort helps almost nine million disadvantaged women each year to plan their families and protect their health, while also substantially reducing rates of unintended pregnancy and saving taxpayers more than $10 billion, according to a new Guttmacher report. The report, Moving Forward: Family Planning in the Era of Health Reform, synthesizes the most up-to-date data and analyses to illustrate the current and future importance of family planning programs and the safety-net providers at the heart of this effort.

Inside Inequality in the Arab Republic of Egypt : Facts and Perceptions across People, Time, and Space

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Inside Inequality in the Arab Republic of Egypt : Facts and Perceptions across People, Time, and Space
Source: World Bank

This book joins four papers prepared in the framework of the Egypt inequality study financed by the World Bank. The first paper prepared by Sherine Al-Shawarby reviews the studies on inequality in Egypt since the 1950s with the double objective of illustrating the importance attributed to inequality through time and of presenting and compare the main published statistics on inequality. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such a comprehensive review is carried. The second paper prepared by Branko Milanovic turns to the global and spatial dimensions of inequality. The objective here is to put Egypt inequality in the global context and better understand the origin and size of spatial inequalities within Egypt using different forms of measurement across regions and urban and rural areas. The Egyptian society remains deeply divided across space and in terms of welfare and this study unveils some of the hidden features of this inequality. The third paper prepared by Paolo Verme studies facts and perceptions of inequality during the period 2000-2009, the period that preceded the Egyptian revolution. The objective of this part is to provide some initial elements that could explain the apparent mismatch between inequality measured with household surveys and inequality aversion measured by values surveys. No such study has been carried out before in the Middle-East and North-Africa (MENA) region and this seemed a particular important and timely topic to address in the light of the unfolding developments in the Arab region. The fourth paper prepared by Sahar El Tawila, May Gadallah and Enas Ali A. El-Majeed assesses the state of poverty and inequality among the poorest villages of Egypt. The paper attempts to explain the level of inequality in an effort to disentangle those factors that derive from household abilities from those factors that derive from local opportunities. This is the first time that such study is conducted in Egypt. The book should be of interest to any observer of the political and economic evolution of the Arab region in the past few years and to poverty and inequality specialists that wish to have a deeper understanding of the distribution of incomes in Egypt and other countries in the MENA region.

Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community: Employment, Wages, and Fairness

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community: Employment, Wages, and Fairness (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World

Ending hunger in America is possible. However, the return of income inequality on a scale that hasn’t been witnessed since the Great Depression—and the high poverty and hunger rates that accompany it—indicates that it’s time for the U.S. government to step up.

In 2012, the average incomes of the top 1 percent of households rose by 19.6 percent, while the incomes of the other 99 percent grew by just 1 percent. Economic inequality manifests itself in disproportionate rates of hunger and poverty among communities of color and children in particular. Following is an analysis of hunger and poverty within the African-American community and the connection to employment, wages, and fairness.

2013-2014 Winter Heating Costs for Older and Low-Income Households

April 2, 2014 Comments off

2013-2014 Winter Heating Costs for Older and Low-Income Households
Source: AARP Research

Record breaking cold weather this heating season will leave many older American households facing higher heating costs than last year. While heating costs continue to be higher for households heating with fuel oil than those heating with natural gas or electricity, costs to heat with natural gas, electricity, and propane have risen for many households across the United States.

This report analyzes data from the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Surveys and the February 2014 Short-Term Energy Outlook. It examines heating-related energy consumption and expenditures among consumers age 65 and older based on income, heating fuel used, and geographic location. Winter heating costs are likely to be a greater burden on older low-income households than on similarly aged higher-income households, even though low-income households tend to use less heating fuel than other groups. This report will be updated monthly through March 2014 as new data are released.

Audit of VHA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Audit of VHA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

At the request of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, we conducted this audit to determine if the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program grantees appropriately expended program funds. In December 2010, VA established the SSVF program to rapidly re-house homeless veteran families and prevent homelessness for those at imminent risk due to a housing crisis. For fiscal years (FYs) 2012 and 2013, the VHA awarded about $60 million and $100 million in SSVF grants, respectively, and has increased awards to nearly $300 million for FY 2014. We found that VHA’s SSVF program has adequate financial controls in place that are working as intended to provide reasonable assurance that funds are appropriately expended by grantees. We determined program staff were reviewing grantee timecards, invoices for temporary financial assistance, subcontractor costs, and conducted annual inspections. However, SSVF program officials can improve controls to ensure only eligible veterans and their family members participate in the program. We found three of five grantees used outdated area median income (AMI) limits to determine eligibility for the program. In addition, four of five grantees did not verify veterans’ discharge status with the required “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty” (DD 214). This occurred because some grantees were not aware when new AMI limits were published. To avoid delaying program participation, grantees did not always follow up to ensure receipt of the required DD 214 when an interim eligibility document was used. As a result, VHA risks providing SSVF services to ineligible veterans or excluding eligible veterans from the program. We recommended the Under Secretary for Health ensure SSVF program management implements a mechanism to inform grantees when the most current AMI limits are published and ensure grantees comply with eligibility documentation requirements. The Under Secretary for Health concurred with our recommendations and provided an appropriate action plan. We consider the SSVF program actions sufficient and closed the recommendations as completed.

Public Service Delivery: Role of Information and Communication Technology in Improving Governance and Development Impact

March 31, 2014 Comments off

Public Service Delivery: Role of Information and Communication Technology in Improving Governance and Development Impact
Source: Asian Development Bank

The focus of this paper is on improving governance through the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the delivery of services to the poor, i.e., improving efficiency, accountability, and transparency, and reducing bribery. A number of papers recognize the potential benefits but they also point out that it has not been easy to harness this potential. This paper presents an analysis of effective case studies from developing countries where the benefits have reached a large number of poor citizens. It also identifies the critical success factors for wide-scale deployment.

The paper includes cases on the use of ICTs in the management of delivery of public services in health, education, and provision of subsidized food. Cases on electronic delivery of government services, such as providing certificates and licenses to rural populations, which in turn provide entitlements to the poor for subsidized food, fertilizer, and health services are also included. ICT-enabled provision of information to enhance rural income is also covered.

Out of Reach 2014

March 28, 2014 Comments off

Out of Reach 2014
Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

The signature finding of Out of Reach is the annual Housing Wage – the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a decent two-bedroom rental home at HUD-estimated Fair Market Rent (FMR) while spending no more than 30% of income on housing costs. The Housing Wage allows Out of Reach to capture the gap between wages and rents across the country, and reveals the growing disparity that low income renters face.

In the United States, the 2014 two-bedroom Housing Wage is $18.92. This national average is more than two-and-a-half times the federal minimum wage, and 52% higher than it was in 2000. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent.

On the 25th anniversary of Out of Reach, the report continues to demonstrate that large numbers of low income renters cannot find decent, affordable housing. As policymakers consider raising the federal minimum wage and combating income inequality, the shortage of affordable housing must also be addressed. Expanding the supply of affordable rental homes dedicated to the lowest income renters is a critical and fundamental part of any real solution. This is not an unattainable goal. Once funded, the National Housing Trust Fund will build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely and very low income households. Through the National Housing Trust Fund, we can finally increase access to affordable housing for the lowest income households.

EITC Expansion Would Strengthen Credit for Childless Workers

March 28, 2014 Comments off

EITC Expansion Would Strengthen Credit for Childless Workers
Source: Brookings Institution

For low-income working families, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the nation’s most effective tools for reducing inequality and alleviating poverty. However, as President Obama pointed out in his State of the Union address, “It doesn’t do enough for…workers who don’t have kids.” In fact, given the modest provision for childless workers (which begins to phase out at just 55 percent of full-time, minimum wage earnings), a childless worker making poverty-level wages would actually be taxed into poverty under current tax law.

With the release of the president’s budget for fiscal year 2015, the administration provided details for how it would go about expanding the EITC to bolster the credit for workers without qualifying children. The administration’s proposal joins others from officials in both the House of Representatives and the Senate aimed at strengthening the EITC for childless workers and, in turn, its work incentive and poverty alleviation effects. These proposals include Representative Richard Neal’s Earned Income Tax Credit Improvement and Simplification Act of 2013 and the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2013 introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown and Richard Durbin.

To better understand each of these proposals’ impact on low-wage workers at the state level and across the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, we used our MetroTax model to assess the effects of each expansion scenario, based on 2012 American Community Survey microdata and Tax Year 2012 tax law.

Scraping By: Income and Program Participation After the Loss of Extended Unemployment Benefits

March 28, 2014 Comments off

Scraping By: Income and Program Participation After the Loss of Extended Unemployment Benefits (PDF)
Source: Institute for the Study of Labor

Despite unprecedented extensions of available unemployment insurance (UI) benefits during the “Great Recession” of 2007-09 and its aftermath, large numbers of recipients exhausted their maximum available UI benefits prior to finding new jobs. Using SIPP panel data and an event-study regression framework, we examine the household income patterns of individuals whose jobless spells outlast their UI benefits, comparing the periods following the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions. Job loss reduces household income roughly by half on average, and for UI recipients benefits replace just under half of this loss. Accordingly, when benefits end the household loses UI income equal to roughly one-quarter of total pre-separation household income (and about one-third of pre-exhaustion household income). Only a small portion of this loss is offset by increased income from food stamps and other safety net programs. The share of families with income below the poverty line nearly doubles. These patterns were generally similar following the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions and do not vary dramatically by household age or income prior to job loss.

Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality

March 21, 2014 Comments off

Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality
Source: Oxfam International

Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The World Economic Forum has identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.

This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.

In this paper, Oxfam shows how extreme inequality is not inevitable, with examples of policies from around the world which have reduced inequality and developed more representative politics, benefiting all, both rich and poor. Oxfam calls on leaders at the 2014 World Economic Forum at Davos to make the commitments needed to counter the growing tide of inequality.

The Health Consequences of Senior Hunger in the United States: Evidence from the 1999-2010 NHANES

March 20, 2014 Comments off

The Health Consequences of Senior Hunger in the United States: Evidence from the 1999-2010 NHANES (PDF)
Source: National Foundation to End Senior Hunger

Millions of seniors are food insecure in the United States, meaning that scores do not have access to enough food at all times for an active, healthy life. What makes food insecurity an even more pressing issue is its association with a wide array of negative nutrition and health consequences. In our earlier reports on food insecurity among seniors (Ziliak et al., 2008; Ziliak and Gundersen, 2011) we documented that food insecure seniors, even after controlling for other factors, were at higher risk of experiencing negative nutrition and health consequences than food secure seniors.

In this report we build on those earlier findings in three main directions. Namely, we add in several new health outcomes; we use four more years of data ; and we examine how trends in health and nutrition outcomes among food secure and food insecure seniors have changed over the past decade. Using data from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we considered the following outcomes related to nutrient intakes: energy intake, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. The set of health outcomes we analyzed were diabetes, general health , depression, diabetes, ADL limitations, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, cancer, reports of chest pain, gum disease, psoriasis, asthma, having had a heart attack, and a self-report of gum health. Here we summarize some of our principal findings.

Characteristics of Families Receiving Multiple Public Benefits

March 19, 2014 Comments off

Characteristics of Families Receiving Multiple Public Benefits
Source: Urban Institute

Little is known about the extent to which low-income households receive multiple public benefits and in what combinations; studies to date estimate low levels of multiple benefit receipt. This brief builds on what is known by investigating the number and types of benefits low-income families with children receive, and the characteristics of families receiving different benefit packages. We find that multiple benefit receipt is common among low-income families, but a minority of families receives benefits beyond food assistance and public health insurance, such as shelter assistance, cash assistance, or work supports.

Relationships Between Housing and Food Insecurity, Frequent Mental Distress, and Insufficient Sleep Among Adults in 12 US States, 2009

March 18, 2014 Comments off

Relationships Between Housing and Food Insecurity, Frequent Mental Distress, and Insufficient Sleep Among Adults in 12 US States, 2009
Source: Preventing Chronic Disease (CDC)

Introduction
Housing insecurity and food insecurity may be psychological stressors associated with insufficient sleep. Frequent mental distress may mediate the relationships between these variables. The objective of this study was to examine the relationships between housing insecurity and food insecurity, frequent mental distress, and insufficient sleep.

Methods
We analyzed data from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 12 states. Housing insecurity and food insecurity were defined as being worried or stressed “sometimes,” “usually,” or “always” during the previous 12 months about having enough money to pay rent or mortgage or to buy nutritious meals.

Results
Of 68,111 respondents, 26.4% reported frequent insufficient sleep, 28.5% reported housing insecurity, 19.3% reported food insecurity, and 10.8% reported frequent mental distress. The prevalence of frequent insufficient sleep was significantly greater among those who reported housing insecurity (37.7% vs 21.6%) or food insecurity (41.1% vs 22.9%) than among those who did not. The prevalence of frequent mental distress was also significantly greater among those reporting housing insecurity (20.1% vs 6.8%) and food insecurity (23.5% vs 7.7%) than those who did not. The association between housing insecurity or food insecurity and frequent insufficient sleep remained significant after adjustment for other sociodemographic variables and frequent mental distress.

Conclusion
Sleep health and mental health are embedded in the social context. Research is needed to assess whether interventions that reduce housing insecurity and food insecurity will also improve sleep health and mental health.

Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition

March 12, 2014 Comments off

Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

Nutrition creates a foundation for sustainable economic growth and good health. There is solid evidence that demonstrates that improving nutrition—particularly early in life, in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday— can have a profound impact on a country’s long-term economic development and stability. Each year 3 million children die from causes related to malnutrition and more than 165 million children suffer from its consequences. Most live in just 36 countries. Because of the role that early nutrition plays in accelerating development and in the success of global food security, agricultural development, and health efforts, it is vital that the United States continues to show global leadership.

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