As we mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, it is a good time to ask how well the safety net for America’s poor families with children is holding up. New or expanded efforts to aid the poor were launched in the 1960s, some of which have since persisted and evolved, while others have been fundamentally revamped. What does research tell us about the effectiveness of the original and revised efforts – in the key areas of food programs, cash help, and support for low-income working families? (more…)
Across America, state governments are considering – and in some cases enacting – a veritable flood of new laws regulating voting and limiting access to the polls. Leading the list are laws requiring would-be voters to show specific kinds of photo identification before they can vote – including types of IDs not easily accessible to many otherwise eligible voters. Additional measures include tighter regulation of organizations and individuals who aim to register new voters, shorter periods for early voting, and the repeal of same-day voter registration laws. Many studies show that such measures dissuade or disenfranchise significant numbers of voters. Minorities, young people, and the very old are especially likely to be hampered. Since these groups disproportionately vote for Democrats, the new restrictions have the potential to actually change election outcomes.
“Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” – the characteristically memorable title of one of Albert Hirschman’s best known books – encapsulates the ways people react to the failures of the societies or institutions in which they are involved. Hirschman knew whereof he spoke, for he practiced all three in his long and remarkable life, stretching almost a century from his birth in Berlin, Germany, on April 7, 1915 to his death in Princeton, New Jersey, on December 10, 2012.
The son of German Jews, Hirschman twice exited supreme danger – fleeing the Nazis first as an eighteen year old who departed for France, where he took part in Resistance efforts to ferry persecuted people to safety over the Pyrenees, and again when he barely escaped by the same route after discovery by the Gestapo. Always loyal to democracy, Hirschman fought for the Spanish Republic and again for the United States in World War II. Thereafter, he gave voice to creative ideas in the service of progressive change, during a decades-long scholarly career at major universities and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Hirschman came to be known and honored not only in Europe and the United States, but also in Latin America, where he lived for a time and whose trials and tribulations in economic and social development were the focus of some of his most innovative studies. (more…)
The crime of human trafficking includes either forced labor or sexual exploitation, where coercion or fraud is used to control the victim. In the United States, this set of crimes is defined and addressed through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, reauthorized in 2003, 2005, and 2008. Provisions of the act cover steps for preventing trafficking, for prosecuting perpetrators, and for providing protection and services to victims. In the thirteen years since the passage of this legislation, much has been written about U.S. trafficking policy – mostly focused on national issues, rather than on varied local contexts.
My research uses interviews, official data, and field work to take a close look at human trafficking in the state of Hawai`i – and, importantly, I have gathered information in three different islands in the state, to see if Maui and the Big Island experience human trafficking issues differently from the main island of Oahu. (more…)
Starting with the 1960s War on Poverty, job training programs – now called “workforce development” – were deployed to improve the skills of poor youth and adults and help them find employment. After a modest beginning, workforce development got a big infusion of federal funding in the 1970s; but support declined after 1980.
Did the original training programs fall short of expectations? More importantly, what do the best current data and analyses show about job training as a tool for reducing poverty in the future? (more…)
The United States imprisons more of its people than any other nation – currently one out of every 31 Americans. Lots of prisoners naturally leads to a steady flow of people leaving prison. Each year more than 700,000 U.S. prisoners are released to their communities. These men and women often have little education and poor prospects for finding jobs or establishing stable homes – and to make things worse, their health often deteriorates right after they leave prison.
About four out of every five newly released people suffer from chronic medical, psychiatric or substance abuse problems – but only about one in five visits a physician outside of hospital emergency departments during the first year after release. Imprisoned patients are often released without adequate follow-up instructions, medications, or access to health insurance coverage. Many let problems fester until they end up in hospital emergency rooms – inflating costs in U.S. health care and forcing taxpayers or insured Americans to foot bills the ex-prisoners cannot pay. An obvious solution is to ensure continuous good health care for people leaving prison. (more…)
Advanced technologies spread unevenly to different groups of Americans, with low-income people and minorities lagging behind whites on most measures of access and usage. But recently African Americans and Latinos have been narrowing the digital divide. A 2010 study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project showed that minorities are increasingly active purchasers of Internet enabled phones; two years later, another Pew report documented that minorities are outpacing whites not just in mundane activities like talking on the phone and texting, but also in more sophisticated applications like Internet-banking.
But progress toward closing America’s digital divides could be stalled or reversed by adverse federal government regulations or restrictive interpretations by the Federal Communications Commission. The regulatory details at issue are quite specific, but they have potentially momentous social consequences.
It matters what kind of family children grow up in. Researchers have discovered that living in a household headed by a single mother can harm children’s health, education, and economic futures. Although the reasons are not entirely clear, marriage confers benefits on mothers and children even when other factors are taken into consideration.
These findings lead many people to worry about the impact that the decline of marriage may be having on children – and some argue that the nation has a strong interest in promoting marriage, particularly among single mothers. Proponents of this approach claim that marriage provides a way to end poverty and welfare dependence for single mothers. They see marriage promotion as a way to enhance the well-being of children, ensuring them the benefits usually associated with living in a married-parent household.
But my research and other studies suggest that marriage promotion is not a magic wand. Many women want to marry, but cannot find the right partners; for them, raising children without husbands may be the most viable option. Race and educational disadvantage play a role in women’s marriage prospects, and we must take such realities into account as public policies are fashioned.
Americans take for granted that if they dislike leaders, candidates, or government policies, there are ways to voice opposition. They can criticize a policy and oppose or support a leader or candidate. Even if Americans do not like outcomes all the time, most understand that they can have input and work for change through democratic means. Historically, many other countries across the world have lacked similar arrangements to enable citizen dissent and input. But in recent decades, fledgling democracies have started to take shape, giving new hope to people who have not enjoyed peaceful openings to influence authoritarian governments. (more…)
In recent years there has been a flurry of legislative activity to exclude immigrants from access to social-welfare assistance at the state and national level. These efforts are controversial, with opponents denouncing them as “unprecedented,” while supporters claim that today’s newcomers are less self-sufficient than earlier generations of immigrants. “Our ancestors,” declared one Republican official, did not come “with their hands out for welfare checks.” Most Americans agree that European immigrants “worked their way up without special favors,” and are inclined to think that everyone today should do the same.
What is the truth about access to U.S. public assistance by different groups? To sort out the myths and realities, I closely tracked the experiences of white European immigrants, blacks, and Mexicans in the first half of the 20th century. My findings will surprise many on all sides. (more…)