Poverty and Racism have a dual impact on upward mobility


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❝ The defining feature of the American Dream is upward mobility – the aspiration that all children have a chance at economic success, no matter their background. However, our research shows that children’s chances of earning more than their parents have been declining. 90% of children born in 1940 grew up to earn more than their parents. Today, only half of all children earn more than their parents did.

The American Dream maintains its mythic status even as it declines steadily. Political charlatans, self-described as conservative more often than not seem to have offered the best lies. The liberal flavor [in my lifetime] can be moved by the courage of citizens to grow backbone. Sometimes.

Who is poor in the United States — An update

Recently, the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty. The report showed that the official rate of poverty in 2015 was 13.5%, down 1.2 percentage points from 2014. Using the Current Population Survey March Supplement, the data used for the Census poverty report, we update our recent analysis to describe the characteristics of the poor in 2015 and changes in these characteristics over the last year.

The characteristics of individuals living in poverty did not change substantially from 2014 to 2015. Children still comprise more than a third of those living below poverty and students an additional 7 percent. A quarter of those living below the poverty threshold are in the labor force, either working or searching for work. Senior citizens, early retirees, the disabled, and caregivers constitute the remaining thirty percent of those living in poverty. Only 3 percent of those living in poverty fall outside of the groups just mentioned…

In order to address poverty, we must know who is poor and how the composition of who is poor is changing. This analysis describes who was living in poverty in 2015 and how that changed from the prior year. As with our analysis of poverty in 2014, this update suggests that when poor working-age adults are not employed full-time, they are often disabled, receiving education, or engaged in caregiving.

It takes a well-funded think tank like Brookings to roll out a PR piece like this without noting even though the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet this is the best we come up with. Not a surprise for a nation which considers healthcare a privilege – instead of a right. But, then, that matches the opinion of many “important” opinion-makers predominant in our press.

Here’s a link to the Census Bureau report.

Italy updates laws to encourage food donations

In Italy, 181 senators voted to pass a bill that seeks to cut 20 percent of the food Italy wastes per year — approximately one million tons. This recovered food will go to the needy, with Italy’s Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina deeming the bill “one of the most beautiful and practical legacies” of the Expo Milano 2015 international exhibition, which…focused on tackling hunger and food waste around the globe.

At present, ministers say that food waste in Italy costs the country approximately $13.4 billion each year — around one percent of the country’s GDP. At least some of this waste stems from complex health and safety regulations which have effectively discouraged businesses and farmers from donating extra food or marginally past-date food to charities or directly to the needy.

And when coupled with the fact that millions of Italians live in poverty, unemployment hovers at approximately 20 percent, and the country’s public debt has increased by 20 percent since 2003, this level of food waste is unacceptable.

…By simplifying the regulatory codes, lifting sanctions to businesses that give away food past its sell-by date, creating tax incentives to donate food, and permitting famers to give away unsold produce without incurring costs, lawmakers hope to change cultural attitudes toward food and its consumption…

Perhaps the most interesting and potentially transformative component of the law is its $1.1 million campaign to promote the use of the “family bag,” or taking home the remainder of one’s meal from a restaurant.

While a relatively common practice in the United States, the notion of taking home extra food from a restaurant — and moreover, the “doggy bag” — is quite rare in Italy. Indeed, some have called the measure the biggest cultural change the bill proposes.

Who knew?

Governor of New Mexico tidies up her hotel party for the coppers

If you really are only as old as you feel, then audio released today by Santa Fe police regarding a little hotel pizza party that got out of hand indicates that New Mexico governor Susana Martinez is… maybe 17 years old.

The tapes (via the NM Political Report) capture calls placed to 911 about a loud party early Sunday morning at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa in the state’s capital. In one call, a front desk clerk asks a dispatcher to send officers to the hotel to remove the noisemakers from the premises. The other two calls feature Martinez, who identifies herself as the state’s governor, interrogating various officers, dispatchers and hotel employees about why police had been sent to respond to the noise complaints.

According to one dispatcher, the hotel had requested officers after being told that people in Martinez’s room were throwing bottles off of a balcony. The problem as far as Martinez saw it was that her party was merely “eating pizza,” a story she repeats with increasingly fanciful diction across the tapes…

❝Martinez: Okay. So we’re just sitting in there, I’m the governor of the state of New Mexico, and we’re in there with my sister who’s disabled along with six other people who are having pizza…

❝Martinez: We’re all in a room, eating pizza.

Dispatcher: Okay, well that wasn’t what was reported to us.

Martinez: What was reported to you?

Dispatcher: That there was a party and people were throwing bottles off the balcony.

Martinez: I’m sorry there’s no one on the balcony and there’s no one throwing bottles off the balcony, and if there were it was about six hours ago.

In one of the other conversations, Martinez says she had only gotten to the room two hours prior, which wouldn’t explain her specificity regarding when something might or might not have happened on the balcony. Per the Santa Fe New Mexican, Martinez was celebrating her annual staff holiday party at the hotel the night of the incident, which probably explains why she sounds kind of drunk.

Click the link in the post to listen to the 9-1-1 recordings.

She sounds like the imperious Queen of Fiesta, e.g. she-who-must-be-obeyed. That’s who her buds in Republican Party “leadership” think she is – with her kissy-kissy fundraising from the Oil Patch Boys.

Meanwhile, the only classifications where our state tends to lead the nation are school dropouts, low grades, teen pregnancy – oh, and unemployment. 6.8%. We’re number one, we’re number one.

NM kids are eating healthier, less obese

Child obesity rates in New Mexico continued a multiyear decline in 2014, but have remained stubbornly high among Native Americans and Hispanics, the state Department of Health reported.

Health officials cheered the report, which shows that the obesity rate for New Mexico third-grade students declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2014.

Patty Morris, project director, and others credit the decrease to a growing awareness of the serious consequences of childhood obesity and measures by school districts and government agencies to provide healthier meals and more physical activity for young children…

In just the past few years, salad bars have become commonplace in elementary schools, she said.

“They have mini salad bars for little kids,” said Rita Condon, program manager for Healthy Kids New Mexico. “They’re just the right size. They use them and they love them…”

Kindergartners showed a four-year decline in obesity, from 15 percent in 2011 to 11.6 percent in 2014…

Obesity rates among Native American third graders in New Mexico remain a challenge, but have shown some improvement.

About one in three Native American third-grade students is overweight or obese, the Department of Health report said.

The obesity rate for third-grade Native Americans edged down from 36.6 percent in 2010 to 32.6 percent in 2014.

Among Hispanics, just more than one in five third graders is obese – a figure that has varied only slightly since 2010.

For Anglo third-graders, the obesity rate has declined from 17.8 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014…

Obesity is common, serious and costly, affecting more than a third of U.S. adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer…

And obese children were likely to remain that way as adults…

Officials say they are addressing the problem by offering training programs to school and preschool personnel throughout the state to encourage healthier meals that comply with new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

School districts around the state have proven eager to adopt the new standards…

All of which is good news.

We know for a fact that children across the country adapt to healthier school food programs. As much as purveyors of mediocre food campaigned for no positive changes, enlisting backwards parents and groups to support their profit structure – those campaigns have failed in states with the sense to move forward.

Kids respond – and they respond by developing new positive habits they bring home to their extended families.

Cultural differences remain and those reflect more complexity than this article offers. We had a breakfast discussion about this article, this morning, and while each of us had anecdotal experiences that both confirmed and denied cultural averages, nothing easy presented itself as a more complete solution.

What state education authorities have begun is a great step forward and should be applauded. It’s taken enough time to get this far.

Map of the day – Republican liars

right to work for less

Let me note they stuck Arizona next to Texas for a tight, tidy map – don’t include New Mexico in with these fools. We may be poor; but, we stopped our Republican governor and Republican-controlled House from passing the right-to-work-for-even-less this past legislative session.

Though they have managed to make us one of the few states NOT to acquire jobs during the economic recovery.

Thanks, SmartAlix

Head Start Program really does help obese kids

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Head Start preschool programs had a positive effect on the body mass index (BMI) for obese and overweight children over the course of an academic year. Both obese and overweight children who participated in Head Start saw a greater decline in BMI z score during their first academic year than their counterparts in comparison groups, according to a new study to be published in the February issue of Pediatrics…

Julie Lumeng said that Head Start is a valuable intervention for clinicians concerned about the health and well-being of their low-income patients. “Practically speaking, if you’re a pediatrician or family medicine doctor who’s working with children and you’re concerned about their weight, if those children are low-income, meaning they would be eligible for the Head Start preschool program, just suggesting to the parent that they sign them up for Head Start might actually help them achieve a healthier weight,” she concluded…

The study may also have implications for the overall population health of children. “By looking at adopting not just developmental and educational policies, but also implementing strategies or evidence around food or playtime, it proves there’s a benefit to this when you compare it to fairly similar populations,” said Stephen Cook, MD, MPH…at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York…

One of the most important limitations of the study may be the study design, which Lumeng calls “second best” compared with a randomized, controlled trial. However, she says a randomized controlled trial would be extremely unethical for this particular population. “You couldn’t enroll a family in a study and say ‘Well, I’m going to flip a coin basically and decide if your child’s going to get preschool or not’ when they’re living in poverty,” said Lumeng…

Cook sees this study as a jumping off point for further data collection, possibly involving Head Start providers, as well as the siblings and parents of the children involved. He hypothesized there might be a “halo effect” with kids’ healthier eating habits and greater physical activity having a positive impact on the adults in their lives.

Head Start is a federally funded preschool program that is free to 3- to 5-year-old US children living in poverty. Head Start program regulations mandate nutritional and health services, adequate time and space for active play, and parental involvement.

Republicans hate it.

Inequality and trending Web searches

credit luke shuman

In the hardest places to live in the United States, people spend a lot of time thinking about diets and religion. In the easiest places to live, people spend a lot of time thinking about cameras.

This summer, The Upshot conducted an analysis of every county in the country to determine which were the toughest places to live, based on an index of six factors including income, education and life expectancy. Afterward, we heard from Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, who suggested looking at how web searches differ on either end of our index.

The results, based on a decade of search data, offer a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. They’re a glimpse into the id of our national inequality.

In the hardest places to live – which include large areas of Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico and Oregon – health problems, weight-loss diets, guns, video games and religion are all common search topics. The dark side of religion is of special interest: Antichrist has the second-highest correlation with the hardest places, and searches containing “hell” and “rapture” also make the top 10…

In the easiest places to live, the Canon Elph and other digital cameras dominate the top of the correlation list. Apparently, people in places where life seems good, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and much of the large metropolitan areas of the Northeast and West Coast, want to record their lives in images…

Beyond cameras, subjects popular in the easiest places include Baby Joggers, Baby Bjorns and baby massage; Skype and Apple devices like the iPod Nano; a piece of workout equipment known as a foam roller; and various foreign destinations (Machu Picchu, New Zealand, Switzerland and Pyeongchang, the South Korean host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics). The phrase “pull-out” is also relatively popular in the easiest places. It presumably refers to either a kind of sofa or a kind of birth control.

…You can understand why religious web searches that are relatively more popular in places where life is harder have such a dark cast. “They are not just about religion but about apocalyptic religion,” notes Dan Silver, a cultural sociologist at the University of Toronto.

In the places on the other end of the spectrum, the picture is much brighter. People have disposable income to buy new technology and take faraway vacations. Their time spent prostrate on a foam roller or out running with the baby in a jogging stroller is more than enough to make up the occasional cupcake. And of course they are intent on passing down their way of life to the next generation, via Baby Bjorns and early access to technology.

RTFA for details and some analysis – including structure of the studies.

Most of all – I didn’t find anything surprising. Another one of those occasions when I wish my cynicism turned out to be wrong.

Thanks, Helen