Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

Living on $2.00 a America?; Hunger drives up health costs; Poverty looms 10 years after Katrina; and Housing Alliance hosts candidate forums


Living on $2.00 a day…in America?

The World Bank counts poverty in developing countries by the number of people living on less than $2 a day. But a new book by renowned poverty researchers Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer–$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America–shows this level of deprivation isn’t only a Third World problem. Here is the introduction to Dylan Matthews’ interview with the authors for, which is worth a full read:


In early 2011, 1.5 million American households, including 3 million children, were living on less than $2 in cash per person per day. Half of those households didn’t have access to in-kind benefits like food stamps, either. Worst of all, the numbers had increased dramatically since 1996.Those are the astonishing findings Johns Hopkins’ Kathryn Edin and the University of Michigan’s Luke Shaefer discovered after analyzing Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data in 2012. In the intervening years, Edin and Shaefer sought out Americans living in this situation, with basically no cash income, relying on food stamps, private charity, and plasma sales for survival.


William Julius Wilson’s review in the New York Times gives some historical background, tying  the extreme poverty Edin and Schaefer document to the poorly designed 1996 welfare “reform” law:


Republicans, however, seizing control of Congress in 1994, devised a bill that ­reflected their own vision of welfare ­reform. Designed as a block grant, giving states considerably more latitude in how they spent government money for welfare than A.F.D.C. permitted, the Republican bill also included a five-year lifetime limit on benefits based on federal funds. States were allowed to impose even shorter time limits. Although the bill increased child care subsidies for recipients who found jobs, the all-important public-­sector jobs for those unable to find employment in the private sector were missing. Moreover, there wasn’t enough budgeted for education and training. Much to the chagrin of the bill’s critics — including Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who predicted in 1995 that the proposed ­legislation would lead to poor children “sleeping on grates” — President Clinton signed the bill, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), on Aug. 22, 1996, two days after his signing into law the first increase in the federal minimum wage in five years.


The early years of “reform” were not as dire as Moynihan and others predicted, mainly because of the booming economy of the late 1990s. Today, a much weaker economy,, coupled with the deep cuts to “cash welfare” benefits under the 1996 law, have caused the human crisis of 3 million American children living in families with less than $2 a day in cash income. In Louisiana, 49 out of every 100 families with children in poverty received cash welfare benefits in 1995, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. By 2013, that number had dropped to just 6 in 100.


Hunger drives up health costs

The United States has the highest health care costs among Western industrialized nations (even though most other countries have universal health care, while millions of Americans remain uninsured even with the Affordable Care Act). Our country also has high rates of poverty for such a wealthy nation. But when it comes to health, doctors often fail to address factors related to poverty, like food insecurity and hunger. That may big a big oversight, writes Elaine Waxman with the Urban Institute:


Although an estimated 49 million Americans struggle with food insecurity at least part of the year, the inability to afford an adequate diet is often left out of conversations about health and health care. A new article published this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that this is an important oversight…The results show that health care costs were significantly higher for food-insecure people, even after adjusting for other socioeconomic and demographic variables. Households with low food security—meaning that they faced uncertain or limited access to a nutritious diet—incurred health care expenses that were 49 percent higher than those who were food secure. And health care costs were 121 percent higher for those with very low food security (those who missed meals or ate smaller meals because they couldn’t afford food). Higher costs were seen across a variety of health care services, including inpatient hospitalization, emergency room visits, physician services, home health care, and prescription drugs. And as food insecurity increased, so did health care costs.


Poverty looms 10 years after Katrina

The weeks leading up to the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina were marked with many celebrations of how far the city has come in the last decade. And indeed, progress has been made. But when it comes to poverty, writes Dr. Kim Hunter Reed in the Hill newspaper, New Orleans still has a long way to go:


More people live in poverty now than before Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans poverty rate is 27 percent, compared to 19 percent for the nation. The opportunity gap is larger. So we have more vulnerable people than before.Since the pathway to prosperity is education, the response should be urgent, focused and at scale. The fact is more citizens need to complete a credential beyond high school. In postsecondary education we’ve been focused on access, not enough on success. To participate in this knowledge economy, students must acquire more education and/or skills training. That’s a message not just for New Orleans but for the entire state and the nation as well.


Housing Alliance hosts candidate forums

The Louisiana Housing Alliance (LHA) is hosting candidate forums around the state as part of its annual listening tour. This year, the LHA is partnering with the Louisiana Budget Project, and the Louisiana Council on Aging Directors Association (LACOADA) in an effort to educate voters on where candidates stand on important issues that are broader than just affordable housing. Next week’s events will be held in Lafayette on Tuesday, Houma-Thibodaux on Wednesday and New Orleans on Thursday. Click here for details.


Number of the Day
3 million – Number of children living in families with cash income of less than $2 a day in America (Source: