To mourn, commemorate, and celebrate the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Photographer Ted Jackson returned to the site of some of his most powerful photographs, re-taking them to reveal the progress, or lack of progress, of the past nine years.
You can see them all at nola.com; I’ve pulled out three that speak to the uneven recovery that I see when I visit.
In this first photo, residents struggle to keep their heads above water by balancing on the porch railing of a home in the Lower 9th Ward, what was once a vibrant working class, almost entirely African American neighborhood. Today, the home remains dilapidated, as did one-in-four homes in New Orleans as of 2010.
In the first photo of this second set, a man delivers fresh water to people stranded in the BW Cooper Housing Development, better known as the Calliope Projects. Today, the housing development is awaiting demolition, having been mostly empty since 2005. Some suspect that closing these buildings was an excuse to make it difficult or impossible for some poor, black residents to return.
This set of homes is located in an upper-income part of the city. The neighborhood, called Lakeview, suffered some of the worst flooding, 8 to 10 feet and more; it has recovered very well.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Holding a college degree, it is widely assumed, improves the likelihood that a person will be successful in the labor market. This maxim draws individuals into college across the class spectrum and aspiring students who are low-income or non-white may find themselves enrolled at a for-profit college.
For profit colleges have been getting slammed for their high prices, low bars, and atrocious graduation rates. Now we have another reason to worry that these institutions are doing more harm than good.
Economist Rajeev Darolia and his colleagues sent out 8,914 fictitious resumes and waited to see if they received a response. They were interested in whether attending a for-profit college actually enhanced job opportunities, as ads for such schools claim, so they varied the level of education on the resumes and whether the applicant attended a for-profit or community college.
It turns out that employers evaluate applicants who attended two-year community colleges and those who attended for-profit colleges about equally. Community colleges, in other words, open just as many doors to possibility as for-profit ones.
Darolia and his colleagues then tested whether employers displayed a preference for applicants who went to for-profit colleges versus applicants with no college at all. They didn’t. Employers treated people with high school diplomas and coursework at for-profit colleges equivalently.
Being economists, they staidly conclude that enrolling in a for-profit college is a bad investment.
If the well-being of our children is an indicator of the health of our society we definitely should be concerned. Almost one-fourth of all children in the U.S. live in poverty.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes an annual data book on the status of American children. Here are a few key quotes from 2014 (all data refer to children 18 and under, unless otherwise specified):
Nationally, 23 percent of children (16.4 million) lived in poor families in 2012, up from 19 percent in 2005 (13.4 million), representing an increase of 3 million more children in poverty.
In 2012, three in 10 children (23.1 million) lived in families where no parent had full-time, year-round employment. Since 2008, the number of such children climbed by 2.9 million.
Across the nation, 38 percent of children (27.8 million) lived in households with a high housing cost burden in 2012, compared with 37 percent in 2005 (27.4 million).
As alarming as these statistics are, they hide the terrible and continuing weight of racism. Emily Badger, writing in the Washington Post, produced the following charts based on tables from the data book.
Children live in poverty because they live in families in poverty. Sadly, despite the fact that we have been in a so-called economic expansion since 2009, most working people continue to struggle. The Los Angeles Timesreported that “four out of 10 American households were straining financially five years after the Great Recession — many struggling with tight credit, education debt and retirement issues, according to a new Federal Reserve survey of consumers.”
Ross Douthat is puzzled. He seems to sense that a liberal policy might actually help, but his high conservative principles and morality keep him from taking that step. It’s a political version of Freudian repression – the conservative superego forcing tempting ideas to remain out of awareness.
In his column, Douthat recounts several anecdotes of criminal charges brought against parents whose children were unsupervised for short periods of time. The best-known of these criminals of late is Debra Harrell, the mother in South Carolina who let her 9-year-old daughter go to a nearby playground while she (Debra) worked at her job at McDonald’s. The details of the case make it clear that this was not a bad mom – not cruel, not negligent. The playground was the best child care she could afford.
One solution should be obvious – affordable child care. But the U.S. is rather stingy when it comes to kids. Other countries are way ahead of us on public spending for children.
Conservatives will argue that child care should be private not public and that local charities and churches do a better job than do state-run programs. Maybe so. The trouble is that those private programs are not accessible to everyone. If Debra Harrell had been in France or Denmark, the problem would never have arisen.
The other conservative U.S. policy that put Debra Harrell in the arms of the law is “welfare reform.” As Douthat explains, in the U.S., thanks to changes in the welfare system much lauded by conservatives, the U.S. now has “a welfare system whose work requirements can put a single mother behind a fast-food counter while her kid is out of school.”
That’s the part that perplexes Douthat. He thinks that it’s a good thing for the government to force poor women to work, but it’s a bad thing for those women not to have the time to be good mothers. The two obvious solutions – affordable day care or support for women who stay home to take care of kids – conflict with the cherished conservative ideas: government bad, work good.
This last issue presents a distinctive challenge to conservatives like me, who believe such work requirements are essential. If we want women like Debra Harrell to take jobs instead of welfare, we have to also find a way to defend their liberty as parents, instead of expecting them to hover like helicopters and then literally arresting them if they don’t.
As he says, it’s a distinctive challenge, but only if you cling so tightly to conservative principles that you reject solutions – solutions that seem to be working quite well in other countries – just because they involve the government or allow poor parents not to work.
Conservatives love to decry “the nanny state.” That means things like government efforts to improve kids’ health and nutrition. (Right wingers make fun of the first lady for trying to get kids to eat sensibly and get some exercise.)
A nanny is a person who is paid to look after someone else’s kids. Well-off people hire them privately (though they still prefer to call them au pairs). But for the childcare problems of low-income parents, what we need is more of a nanny state, or more accurately, state-paid nannies.
Jane Van Galen asked herself this question after reading a gushing profile of an “island cabin” in The Seattle Times. It begins: “Lots of folks have lots of reasons for wanting their own piece of land out of town” and quotes one of the new cabin’s owners who, when pregnant, came to realize: “I can’t raise a child just in the city … I wanted woods, salamanders and pileated woodpeckers.”
So, she and her husband “went right out,” bought nine acres on an island, and built this:
Writing at her site, Education and Class, Van Galen processed her reaction to this article. She added up the costs, figuring that the owners spent close to a million dollars. “I knew that my unease,” she wrote, “was not just straightforward jealously.” So, what did she want?
She knew what she did not want:
Narratives in which the wealthy are held up as model parents who upon hearing of the dangers of the modern world, “go right out” to provide acres of weekend woods for their children; narratives that invite us to admire their paint colors and beautiful windows and solid black granite bathtub without asking too many questions about how it is that relatively young parents can ensure that their child has access to acres of his own private salamanders, and especially not to ask too many questions about how all children might have room to grow and thrive...
She wanted, “for once,” to hear wealthy people just admit they’re rich — for whatever reason — instead of framing their decision to build a vacation home as simply what any good parent would do.
“I love having this for my son,” the owner is quoted. But Van Galen wants to know: What about everyone else’s children?
According to a June 2014 Russell Sage Foundation report, the average U.S. household experienced a real wealth decline of more than one-third over the 10 years ending in 2013.
Table 1 shows that the net worth of the median household fell from $87,992 in 2003 to $56,335 in 2013, for a decline of 36%. In fact, the last ten years were hard on the overwhelming majority of American households. Only the top 2 groups enjoyed wealth gains over the period. Also noteworthy is the tiny net worth of households below the median.
Figure 1 provides a longer term perspective on wealth movements. We can see that most households enjoyed growing wealth from 1984 to the 2007 crisis, with wealth falling across the board since. However, the median household is now significantly poorer than it was in 1984. Only the richer households managed to maintain most of their earlier gains in wealth.
These trends highlight the fact that we have a growing inequality of wealth, as well as of income, and they are not likely to reverse on their own.
There is one similarity between the Israel/Gaza crisis and the U.S. unaccompanied child immigrant crisis: National borders enforcing social inequality. When unequal populations are separated, the disparity creates social pressure at the border. The stronger the pressure, the greater the military force needed to maintain the separation.
To get a conservative estimate of the pressure at the Israel/Gaza border, I compared some numbers for Israel versus Gaza and the West Bank combined, from the World Bank (here’s a recent rundown of living conditions in Gaza specifically). I call that conservative because things are worse in Gaza than in the West Bank.
Then, just as demographic wishful thinking, I calculated what the single-state solution would look like on the day you opened the borders between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I added country percentiles showing how each state ranks on the world scale (click to enlarge).
Israel’s per capita income is 6.2-times greater, its life expectancy is 6 years longer, its fertility rate is a quarter lower, and its age structure is reversed. Together, the Palestinian territories have a little more than half the Israeli population (living on less than 30% of the land). That means that combining them all into one country would move both populations’ averages a lot. For example, the new country would be substantially poorer (29% poorer) and younger than Israel, while increasing the national income of Palestinians by 444%. Israelis would fall from the 17th percentile worldwide in income, and the Palestinians would rise from the 69th, to meet at the 25th percentile.
Clearly, the separation keeps poor people away from rich people. Whether it increases or decreases conflict is a matter of debate.
Meanwhile, the USA has its own enforced exclusion of poor people.
Photo of US/Tijuana border by Kordian from Flickr Creative Commons.
The current crisis at the southern border of the USA mostly involves children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They don’t actually share a border with the USA, of course, but their region does, and crossing into Mexico seems pretty easy, so it’s the same idea.
To make a parallel comparison to Israel and the West Bank/Gaza, I just used Guatemala, which is larger by population than Honduras and El Salvador combined, and also closest to the USA. The economic gap between the USA and Guatemala is even larger than the Israeli/Palestinian gap. However, because the USA is 21-times larger than Guatemala by population, we could easily absorb the entire Guatemalan population without much damaging our national averages. Per capita income in the USA, for example, would fall only 4%, while rising more than 7-times for Guatemala (click to enlarge):
This simplistic analysis yields a straightforward hypothesis: violence and military force at national borders rises as the income disparity across the border increases. Maybe someone has already tested that.
The demographic solution is obvious: open the borders, release the pressure, and devote resources to improving quality of life and social harmony instead of enforcing inequality. You’re welcome!
Andrew Cherlin and his colleagues report that 64% of women and 63% of men have had at least one child out of wedlock. The dominance of non-marital births is true for everyone, except people with four-year college degrees.
Cherlin’s charts each present the same data – births by age and relationship status — for women who didn’t finish high school (figure one), high school grads (figure two), women with some college (and so on), and women with a bachelors (etc). There’s some differences between the first three graphs, but the big leap comes with the last.
Didn’t finish high school:
High school grads: Some college: College grads:
“There are two clear paths through adulthood,” Cherlin told The Altantic, “one for people who have a bachelor’s degree and one for people who don’t.”