Poverty Topic Daily

20 million Americans live in high poverty areas

Quinoz, 5-17, 23, Jose A. Quinonez is the president of Partners for Rural Transformation, a collective of six community development financial institutions working together to eliminate persistent poverty and advance prosperity and economic justice in rural America., Non Profit Quarterly, Ending Persistent Poverty in Rural America: The Role of CDFIs, https://nonprofitquarterly.org/ending-persistent-poverty-in-rural-america-the-role-of-cdfis/

Perhaps nowhere else in the United States is the structural exclusion by race and place more self-evident than places labeled as persistent poverty areas. Home to over 20 million Americans, these areas are named so because the poverty rate has remained above 20 percent for three consecutive decades. Of these 395 counties and parishes, 80 percent are rural, and 60 percent of residents are people of color. Persistent poverty did not just happen to these areas. Instead, it was policy choices that facilitated the acquisition of wealth and power among a select group through the enslavement of Africans and African Americans in the Mississippi Delta and Black Belt, the taking of land and life from tribal nations and Latinx people throughout the country and along the US-Mexico border, and the extraction of natural resources from Appalachia. This has led to high unemployment, a lack of access to banking services, a lack of affordable housing, and unsafe drinking water. As a result, many of these communities face higher rates of premature death and worse health outcomes than the rest of the country. According to the County Health Rankings, 81 percent fall in the least healthy quartile.

US poverty is structural; it exists because rich people benefit from it

Annie Lowry, 5-14, 23, The Atlantic, The War on Poverty Is Over. Rich People Won., https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/05/poverty-in-america-book-matthew-desmond-interview/674058/

Why do so many Americans live in poverty? Because so many rich people benefit from it.

This is the thesis of the lauded sociologist Matthew Desmond’s new book, Poverty, by America. The best seller is at once a careful exploration of poverty statistics; a deeply reported depiction of the lived experiences of the poor; an examination of the ways America’s wealthy exploit the masses; and a case for ending poverty. Desmond shows how the country’s employers, financial institutions, and landlords extract money from low-income families while rich families hoard opportunity for themselves. He also demonstrates how America’s safety-net programs are not just too stingy but poorly designed. Desmond is a professor at Princeton. His previous book—Evicted, about the low-income rental market in Milwaukee—won a Pulitzer Prize. We discussed how the ric came to win the War on Poverty and what’s necessary to end poverty.

Desmond continues…

Government programs obviously work. I’ve been with people when they receive a housing voucher. They praise Jesus. They fall on their knees. They pray and weep and cry. We have massive amounts of evidence about the benefits of government spending on anti-poverty programs. But poverty is also about exploitation. We have all these anti-poverty programs that accommodate poverty without disrupting it. They’re not eliminating poverty at the root.

Lowrey: Who benefits from that exploitation? Who benefits from a person being homeless?

Desmond: A lot of us benefit from it. I don’t just mean the guy that’s a little richer than you or a lot richer than you. I mean a lot of us, those who have found security and comfort in America consuming the cheap goods and services that the working class produces for us.

Half of us are invested in the stock market. Many times, we see our savings going up and up and up when someone’s pay is going down and down and down. Those two things are related. Or think about the housing crisis: Many times, it’s not just corporate landowners who are benefiting from high rents. It’s homeowners whose housing values are propped up and kept high by a scarcity of housing that they contribute to.

Banks exploit the poor

Annie Lowry, 5-14, 23, The Atlantic, The War on Poverty Is Over. Rich People Won., https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/05/poverty-in-america-book-matthew-desmond-interview/674058/

Lowrey: The book points out that our financial institutions, housing markets, and labor market all extract money from low-income families. How does that work for banking, given that wealthy families are the ones with all the money to begin with?

Desmond: By my calculation, financial institutions pull $61 million a day out of the pockets of the poor in fees—just fees, so they can access their money. Often this is just straight-up exploitative. Banks don’t have to charge overdraft fees. That’s not a thing they have to do to keep the lights on. That’s an incredible source of revenue. And people like you and me benefit from it, because we get free checking accounts subsidized by other people’s overdraft fees. Only 9 percent of bank users pay 84 percent of those fees, $11 billion a year. Payday-loan fees and check-cashing fees are part of that, but the overdraft costs are higher. This isn’t just about check-cashing stores with the bright-red signs in the poor neighborhoods. It’s also about the banks that you and I use.

COVID-19 aid proves government aid can reduce poverty

Matthew Desmond, economist, Princeton, May 14, 2023, The Atlantic, The War on Poverty Is Over. Rich People Won., https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/05/poverty-in-america-book-matthew-desmond-interview/674058/

Desmond: During COVID, we saw this incredible, bold relief, unmatched since the War on Poverty and the Great Society. If you look at the extended child tax credit, it dropped child poverty 46 percent in six months. If you look at emergency rental assistance, eviction rates drop to the lowest on record. If you look at incomes of families in the bottom half of the distribution—after the Great Recession, it took them 10 years to recover. This time, it took a year and a half. Night and day.

I see this as incredible, incredible evidence of what robust government spending can do. But those things are going away. We’re seeing evictions tick up again. We’re seeing the poverty rate tick up again. That should be troubling.

US poverty rate 2X that of Germany and South Korea

Matthew Desmond, economist, Princeton, May 14, 2023, The Atlantic, The War on Poverty Is Over. Rich People Won., https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/05/poverty-in-america-book-matthew-desmond-interview/674058/

Annie Lowrey: How is poverty different in America than in its peer countries? Matthew Desmond: We have more of it. We have double the child-poverty rate of Germany and South Korea. We have a lot less to go around with, in terms of fighting poverty. We collect a much smaller share of our GDP in taxes every year.

Poverty destroys health

Emma Bascom, May 12, 2023, Healio, https://www.healio.com/news/primary-care/20230512/consistent-poverty-linked-to-higher-mortality-rates, Consistent poverty linked to higher mortality rates

In 2019, 10.5% of U.S. deaths were linked to cumulative poverty. Poverty was associated with 2.6 times as many deaths as drug overdose, 3.9 times as many deaths as suicide and 4.7 times as many deaths as firearms. Poverty should be considered a major risk factor for death in the United States, according to the results of research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The United States consistently has a poverty rate much higher than similarly wealthy countries, which “presents an enormous challenge to population health, given that considerable research demonstrates that being in poverty is bad for one’s health,” David Brady, PhD, a professor of public policy at University of California, Riverside, and colleagues wrote. Although previous research has offered “valuable contributions” on income and mortality, the researchers wrote that the quantity of mortality connected with U.S. poverty is unknown. So, they conducted a cohort study to estimate the associations between mortality and poverty and quantify the proportion of deaths linked to poverty. Brady and colleagues evaluated the Panel Study of Income Dynamics 1997 to 2019 data merged with the Cross-National Equivalent File, ultimately including 18,995 respondents aged 15 years or older. The survey observed mortality from surviving family members and validated with the National Death Index. When it came to measuring socioeconomic status, the “higher quality household income measure” included all income sources and taxes and was adjusted for household size. Brady and colleagues found that poverty was linked to a greater mortality hazard of 1.42 (95% CI, 1.26-1.6). Consistently being in poverty — referred to as cumulative poverty — was linked to a greater mortality hazard of 1.71 (95% CI, 1.45-2.02). Current poverty was associated with 6.5% of deaths (95% CI, 4.1-9) among those aged 15 years or older in 2019. Among that same demographic, cumulative poverty was linked to 10.5% of deaths (95% CI, 6.9-14.4). Current poverty was connected to higher mortality than major causes like stroke, accidents and lower respiratory diseases, according to the researchers. It was also linked to higher mortality than “far more visible causes,” they wrote. For instance, current poverty mortality was responsible for 2.6 times as many deaths as drug overdose, 3.9 times as many deaths as suicide, 4.7 times as many deaths as firearms and 10 times as many homicides. However, cumulative poverty was linked to approximately 60% greater mortality than current poverty and higher mortality than obesity and dementia. The researchers wrote that the only causes or risks with greater mortality than cumulative poverty were cancer, smoking and heart disease. “Because the U.S. consistently has high poverty rates, these estimates can contribute to understanding why the U.S. has comparatively lower life expectancy,” Brady and colleagues wrote. “Because certain ethnic and racial minority groups are far more likely to be in poverty, our estimates can improve understanding of ethnic and racial inequalities in life expectancy.” Brady and colleagues additionally noted that disparities in survival between those in poverty and those not in poverty begin to emerge at around 40 years of age. The gap peaks around 70 years of age, they wrote, and then begins to converge again. “The mortality associated with poverty is also associated with enormous economic costs,” the researchers wrote. “Therefore, benefit-cost calculations of poverty-reducing social policies should incorporate the benefits of lower mortality.” Brady and colleagues also noted that “poverty likely aggravated the mortality impact of COVID-19, which occurred after our analyses ended in 2019.”

The US economic system makes poverty inevitable

David Smith, May 11, 2023, The Poverty Paradox: why is there still so much economic hardship in the US?, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/may/10/poverty-paradox-new-book-mark-rank-us-economic-hardship

Mark Rank thinks about American poverty like a game of musical chairs. “What we’ve done so long is focus on who loses out in the game rather than why the game produces losers in the first place,” the social scientist says in a video call from his office at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. “We’re playing a game of musical chairs with 10 players and only eight chairs. We can say, OK, who loses out of that game? Well, it’s people that aren’t as quick or they’re in a bad position when the music stops. “But given that there are only eight chairs, then two people are going to lose out regardless of what their character is. That’s a very powerful analogy to use and it does capture what’s been happening in the United States. We focus on individual characteristics rather than saying, hey, there’s something wrong when we don’t have enough jobs that pay a decent wage.” Rank, 67, who has spent decades researching poverty and inequality, is out with a new book, The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity. It brings a much needed sociological method and rigour to an issue too often reduced to political slogans or newspaper snapshots. The paradox in the title has dogged politicians for generations: why does the wealthiest country in the world also have the highest rate of poverty among industrialised nations? This is the land of New York and Los Angeles, of skyscrapers and space rockets, of multibillionaires Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Yet one in 10 Americans is officially poor. According to the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6%, with 37.9 million people in poverty (an example definition being a family of three with income below $21,559). Rank observes: “You can find poverty in rural areas, in urban areas, in suburban areas, which actually have some of the highest numbers of folks in poverty. In terms of race, it’s a double edged sword. Two thirds of the poor in the United States are white; however, if you’re non-white, you’re at a much greater risk of being in poverty. Both of those things are true. “That’s why I say the reach of poverty is very wide in the United States. I’m looking at the risk of poverty across people’s lives and what’s the risk of poverty in the next 20 or 30 years? If you do that, the vast majority of Americans will experience poverty at some point.” This is because Americans suffer greater economic insecurity than their counterparts in other western industrial nations, Rank argues. Many are in low paying jobs without benefits. If they lose that job or fall ill, there is little to protect them.

“Opportunity” and “individualism” driven by racism and false assumptions about mobility

David Smith, May 11, 2023, The Poverty Paradox: why is there still so much economic hardship in the US?, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/may/10/poverty-paradox-new-book-mark-rank-us-economic-hardship

“Our safety net in the United States is very weak and so when these things happen, people are at real risk of falling into poverty. When you think about what can happen to me over the next 20 or 30 years, it’s not unusual to lose a job or to get sick or to have something like this happen and that’s why the rates are so high over a long period of time.” Rank suggests that America’s anaemic welfare state – including an anomalous lack of universal health care – can partly be explained by the interplay of race and poverty. “There’s some interesting research that shows the more homogeneous a society is in terms of race and ethnicity, the more generous their social welfare state. The idea is if you look like me, I’m likely to be more empathetic, I can relate to you more. “Whereas in the United States, we’re very heterogeneous. We’re a large country and we look different and therefore it’s harder to feel that kind of empathy. There has been a lot of backlash against immigrants coming into Scandinavian countries with respect to social safety nets and I’m sure in the UK as well.” This heterogeneity has long been supposed to at least provide the spark for an unrivalled energy, vitality and get-up-and-go entrepreneurial spirit. The American dream – the notion that anyone, regardless of birthplace or class, can attain success – has seduced countless dreamers, not least from overseas. But for every self-made millionaire for whom the streets are paved with gold, there are far more Willy Lomans who fall through the cracks and just keep falling. “In the United States we’re largely about rugged individualism. You do it on your own. You work hard. The idea is that there are opportunities to take advantage of. But the downside is you’re also on your own and, when stuff goes bad, it’s like well, that’s the way it goes. It’s kind of a Faustian bargain that we have here. “‘If I did it, you can do it.’ The problem with that is for every person who really went from rags to riches, there’s 10 other people that didn’t get there at all.” But even the comforting upside of this bargain is now looking tenuous as recent research shows the “land of opportunity” actually offers less economic mobility than many of its counterparts. The American dream has calcified into a myth. “It’s become more rigid in terms of mobility and one way to think about this is not only does the United States lead the OECD countries in poverty but we also have the most income and wealth inequality. What’s happened is that as the income distribution has gotten wider, the rungs on the ladder have gotten further apart, making it more difficult for people to move up.” This trend can be traced to the warp and weft of political ideologies. In 1964, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, telling Congress in his state of the union address: “We shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.” And while total victory was unattainable, the effort did make strides in poverty reduction. Rank – whose previous books include Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America and One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All – notes that wages have stagnated since their peak in 1973, leaving earners no better off today than they were were in real dollars half a century ago. Then came the election of Ronald Reagan, a Republican who declared “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.” It was religion of small government, trickle down economics, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps and the demonisation of “welfare queens”. The tone was set for poverty as individual pathology. Rank adds: “There was very much this backlash that government isn’t the solution, government is the problem, let’s cut back on these programmes and the result is that there’s a very weak safety net to try to protect folks.” The resulting policies, he writes, have been primarily aimed at trying to “improve” individuals on the assumption that causes of poverty lie within their attitudes or behaviour. Approaches include “tough love”, job training and skill development programmes and benign – or not so benign – neglect, premised on the belief that governments do more harm than good. A generation after former Hollywood actor Reagan, there was former reality TV star Donald Trump, who recycled Reagan’s “Make America great again” slogan. The wealthy New Yorker appealed not to the poor but to those who perceived themselves to be economically fragile and caught in a downdraft – and looking for a ready scapegoat. “What has happened is they feel like they are not getting ahead. They feel that other people are getting ahead of them, like African Americans and immigrants, and they’re falling behind. Trump tied into that angst and anxiety and he started talking about that and saying, ‘Hey, these people are getting ahead of you!’ and that resonated.”

Rank supports the plan

David Smith, May 11, 2023, The Poverty Paradox: why is there still so much economic hardship in the US?, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/may/10/poverty-paradox-new-book-mark-rank-us-economic-hardship

It took a once-in-a-century crisis to rebuke Reaganism and show what is possible. During the coronavirus pandemic, government stepped in, albeit temporarily, with an expanded child tax credit that reduced child poverty by an estimated 40%. Other safety net expansions included three stimulus cheques, a moratorium on evictions, increased unemployment benefits and more funding for food and housing. Rank comments: “That shows that on a structural level, on a policy level, you can really do something to address poverty. If we take a longer term picture, I think the pendulum will be swinging more towards saying, you know what, there are things we can do to really reduce poverty, particularly child poverty. So although that was short term, it did show the effect that policy can have.” The implication of Rank’s book is that poverty is not inevitable but is a societal choice. His solutions include universal healthcare, which Senator Bernie Sanders has championed but Joe Biden has not. “It’s just ridiculous. We should view healthcare as a human right, not as something that your wallet determines whether you’re able to have that or not. There are certain things that we should put in place that European countries and the UK and others have as well.” Rank would also seek to improve salaries for workers in low paid jobs. “The premise should be if you work full time in the United States you shouldn’t be poor. That just seems wrong. You should at least be a bit above the poverty line and that’s not the case. So I would focus on some social policy things and also on getting a number of those low wage jobs up to a decent level.”

Poverty undermines democracy and the economy

David Smith, May 11, 2023, The Poverty Paradox: why is there still so much economic hardship in the US?, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2023/may/10/poverty-paradox-new-book-mark-rank-us-economic-hardship

In the final third of The Poverty Paradox, the author examines how poverty undermines American values including democracy. He says: “You have a lot of people that are completely disenfranchised. We’re making it harder and harder for people to vote that are either racial minorities or poor and, on the other hand, you’ve got people with enormous resources that are distorting democracy. “They have an undue influence on our policy and in our government. This is getting at more the question of widening inequality: we can point to research that shows that undermines a democracy. Addressing poverty is not only important from a social justice perspective, but it’s also an economic question, because when you disenfranchise a lot of people, when you don’t invest in people, your economy is not going to be as strong as putting your resources into your human capital.” Rank sums up: “One way or another, having this poverty in the United States affects us all here. We pay a price. You can either pay on the on the front end of a problem or on the back end of the problem and we’re paying on the back end, which is always more expensive. The European Union, UK, other places are more likely to pay on the front end by providing good childcare, good healthcare, education and that’s a much better way of addressing this. We need to to shift our thinking about poverty from an issue of them to an issue of us.”

Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in the US

Brian Contreras, April 23, 2023, https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/view/poverty-is-the-fourth-leading-cause-of-death-in-the-united-states-study-finds, Managed Health Care Executive, Poverty Is the Fourth Leading Cause of Death in the United States, Study Finds

In the United States, poverty was found to be the fourth greatest cause of death. This threat to one’s health is also reported to be far higher in the U.S. compared to other countries. In a recently published research letter in JAMA Network by University of California – Riverside, in 2019 there were roughly 183,000 deaths associated with poverty in the U.S. among people 15 years and older. This is a significant result as the data is from the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic where death rates skyrocketed. To get a better idea of the association between poverty and death in the U.S., researchers analyzed the Panel Study of Income Dynamics 1997- 2019 data merged with the Cross-National Equivalent File. Deaths reported in surveys were validated in the National Death Index, a database kept by the National Center for Health Statistics, which tracks deaths and their causes in the U.S. Household income was measured by all income sources including cash and near-cash transfers, taxes and tax cred- its and was adjusted for household size. With use of leading standards in international poverty research, poverty was measured relatively as less than 50% of the median income. Current poverty was observed simultaneously in each year, and cumulative poverty was the proportion of the past 10 years. Data shared that broken down, those aged 15 years or older were of the 183,000 deaths associated to current poverty, and 295,431 deaths were associated with cumulative poverty. Current poverty was associated with greater mortality than major causes, such as accidents, lower respiratory diseases, and stroke. Only heart disease, cancer, and smoking were associated with a greater number of deaths than cumulative poverty. Obesity, diabetes, drug overdoses, suicides, firearms, and homicides, among other common causes of death, were less lethal than poverty. “Poverty kills as much as dementia, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes,” said David Brady, the study’s lead author and a UCR professor of public policy, in a peer review. “Poverty silently killed 10 times as many people as all the homicides in 2019. And yet, homicide firearms and suicide get vastly more attention.” Another finding is that people living in poverty – those with incomes less than 50% of the U.S. median income — have roughly the same survival rates until they hit their 40s, after which they die at significantly higher rates than people with more adequate incomes and resources. In addition, these findings have major policy implications, the researchers say. “Because certain ethnic and racial minority groups are far more likely to be in poverty, our estimates can improve understanding of ethnic and racial inequalities in life expectancy,” the paper reads. Brady expressed the study shows that poverty should get more attention from policymakers as it not only causes great emotional suffering but also comes at a great cost. “If we had less poverty, there’d be a lot better health and well-being, people could work more, and they could be more productive,” Brady said. “All of those are benefits of investing in people through social policies.” According to a White House brief, over the last three decades, American families have experienced a rise in the costs of many necessities that has made it difficult for them to attain economic security. It was estimated, for example, 80% of families saw the share of budgets dedicated to spending on needs such as housing and healthcare increase by more than 7 percentage points between 1984 and 2014. Further, a 2019 Pew survey found that 37% of Americans worry about the cost of healthcare for themselves and their families.

AI will eliminate 80% of jobs  

Eugenia LOGIURATTO, May 8, 2023, Yahoo News, https://news.yahoo.com/ai-could-replace-80-jobs-211900514.html, AI could replace 80% of jobs ‘in next few years’: expert 

Artificial intelligence could replace 80 percent of human jobs in the coming years — but that’s a good thing, says US-Brazilian researcher Ben Goertzel, a leading AI guru. Mathematician, cognitive scientist and famed robot-creator Goertzel, 56, is founder and chief executive of SingularityNET, a research group he launched to create “Artificial General Intelligence,” or AGI — artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities. With his long hair and leopard-print cowboy hat, Goertzel was in provocateur mode last week at Web Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s biggest annual technology conference, where he told AFP in an interview that AGI is just years away and spoke out against recent efforts to curb artificial intelligence research. – ADVERTISEMENT – – As smart as humans? – Q: How far are we from artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities? “If we want machines to really be as smart as people and to be as agile in dealing with the unknown, then they need to be able to take big leaps beyond their training and programming. And we’re not there yet. But I think there’s reason to believe we’re years rather than decades from getting there.” – AI risk – Q: What do you think of the debate around AI such as ChatGPT and its risks? Should there be a six-month research pause, as some people are advocating? “I don’t think we should pause it because it’s like a dangerous superhuman AI… These are very interesting AI systems, but they’re not capable of becoming like human level general intelligences, because they can’t do complex multi-stage reasoning, like you need to do science. They can’t invent wild new things outside the scope of their training data. “They can also spread misinformation, and people are saying we should pause them because of this. That’s very weird to me. Why haven’t we banned the internet? The internet does exactly this. It gives you way more information at your fingertips. And it spreads bullshit and misinformation. “I think we should have a free society. And just like the internet shouldn’t be banned, we shouldn’t ban this.” – Threat to jobs – Q: Isn’t their potential to replace people’s jobs a threat? “You could probably obsolete maybe 80 percent of jobs that people do, without having an AGI, by my guess. Not with ChatGPT exactly as a product. But with systems of that nature, which are going to follow in the next few years. “I don’t think it’s a threat. I think it’s a benefit. People can find better things to do with their life than work for a living… Pretty much every job involving paperwork should be automatable. “The problem I see is in the interim period, when AIs are obsoleting one human job after another… I don’t know how (to) solve all the social issues.” – AI positives – Q: What can robots do for society today, and what will they be able to do in the future, if AGI is achieved? “You can do a lot of good with AI. “Like Grace, (a robot nurse) we showcased at Web Summit Rio. In the US, a lot of elderly people are sitting lonely in old folks’ homes. And they’re not bad in terms of physical condition — you have medical care and food and big-screen TV — but they’re bad in terms of emotional and social support. So if you inject humanoid robots into it, that will answer your questions, listen to your stories, help you place a call with your kids or order something online, then you’re improving people’s lives. Once you get to an AGI, they’ll be even better companions. “In that case, you’re not eliminating human jobs. Because basically, there’s not enough people who want to do nursing and nursing assistant jobs. “I think education will also be an amazing market for humanoid robots, as well as domestic help.” – Regulation – Q: What regulation do we need for AI to have a positive impact? “What you need is society to be developing these AIs to do good things. And the governance of the AIs to be somehow participatory among the population. All these things are technically possible. The problem is that the companies funding most of the AI research don’t care about doing good things. They care about maximizing shareholder value.”