Tag Archives: socioeconomic status

Financial Reforms Alone cannot Reduce Household Debts for Americans Facing Low Wages and Insecure Jobs

Image by Nikcname via Flickr CC
Sara M. Bernardo
Sara M. Bernardo is in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs PhD program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research focuses on the transitions within economic practices since the 1970's including social policy and the relationships between U.S. household debt, and financial and labor market developments.

From 1980 until the start of the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, U.S. households accumulated debt at an unprecedented pace. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the ratio of total debt to disposable income – a measure that reveals households’ ability to service their debts out of current income – hovered around 70 percent. Thereafter it rose, increasing to 90 percent by 1995 and peaking at 135 percent in 2007, before declining to 110 percent in 2013.

The financial meltdown brought new attention to the debt loads facing American households, in part because many analysts fingered defaults on subprime mortgages as a chief cause of the crisis. But policy responses have focused too narrowly on financial market reforms. Certainly it makes sense to curb the unfair and fraudulent lending practices that have proliferated over the past few decades, yet new financial regulation alone won’t make most working families more economically secure. For that, we must understand and address the intertwined social, political and economic trends that have created insecure labor markets and heightened debt risks. (more…)

The Promising Launch of Community-Oriented Charter Schools in New Orleans

Image by Jared eberhardt via Flickr CC
Brian R. Beabout
Brian R. Beabout is in the department of Education at the University of New Orleans where his studies leadership and urban public schools with a focus on community engagement.
Joseph L. Boselovic
Joseph L. Boselovic is in the department of Education at Loyola University New Orleans. His work is centered on K-12 education and it's relation to reform and social change, with a particular focus on New Orleans.

Few cities have adopted charter schools more rapidly than New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although the Orleans Parish School Board still operates a few traditional public schools as well as its own charter schools, the Recovery School District run by the state has just become the first district in the country to have only charter schools. Many scholars regard New Orleans as an important site for studying many kinds of educational reforms, and we have done our own study of two community-oriented charter schools that opened in 2010 and 2013.

Although many existing New Orleans charter schools have been run by local or national non-profit organizations that emphasize the delivery of college preparatory instruction to mostly poor, non-white students, the two schools we studied were founded by parents and community members who are intensely engaged and have strong visions about the role of their schools in the community. These parents and community members have endeavored to build schools that foster cross-group friendships, serve as hubs for the surrounding neighborhood, and combine strong academics with a broad curriculum. This approach differs from the usual tendency of urban charter schools to define success narrowly in terms of student achievement on tests. Our study of these two grassroots charter schools offers important lessons for reformers well beyond New Orleans who believe in a more community-based approach to school improvement. (more…)

How To Increase Voter Turnout in Communities Where People Have Not Usually Participated in Elections

Mobilizing Inclusion Cover
Melissa Michelson
Melissa R. Michelson is in Menlo College's department of political science. With Lisa Garcia Bedolla, she is the author of Mobilizing Inclusion: Redefining Citizenship through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns.

Voter turnout among members of different groups of Americans varies widely, with Latinos and Asians generally lagging behind other groups. Blacks usually fall in between, with turnout usually ahead of other minorities but behind whites—although black participation surged in 2008 and 2012 in response to the historic candidacy of Barack Obama. Additional segments of the American public also vote less than they might, including lower-income citizens and youth.

Low levels of voting matter, because election results are supposed to reflect the preferences of all Americans. In addition, recent trends indicate that Latinos, if they vote at their full potential, have considerable capacity to influence election outcomes, increasingly at the national as well as state and local level. Getting out the Latino vote was a crucial part of the Obama 2012 reelection strategy, and activists striving to boost Democratic Party prospects in Texas are spending tens of millions of dollars registering eligible Latinos. Understanding how to motivate voting by Latinos and other under-engaged citizens is thus of concern to candidates and parties as well as scholars.

How Can Reluctant Voters Be Mobilized?

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Unions Foster Middle Class Leadership in American Democracy

Education Minnesota represents some 70,000 teachers and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the NEA. Connections like those can help union candidates win office.

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Sojourner
Aaron J. Sojourner is in the department of work and organizations at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. Before joining academia, he was a policy advisor at the local and national levels.

Labor unions are known to improve wages and benefits for their members. Yet economic results are not all that unions accomplish. They also make a difference in democratic politics by lobbying for policies, by providing money and volunteers in elections – and also by fostering leadership skills among their members and helping some win elected public offices.

The role of unions in helping members win elected office has not received as much scholarly attention as the other economic and political functions unions perform. In part that is because this function is not easy to study in a rigorous, empirical manner. I have devised a new way to test the hypothesis that unions foster elected officials – and my findings open the door for further explorations of how union membership facilitates electoral careers – and why this matters. (more…)

Who Pays America’s Taxes?

Image by Chris Tolworthy via Flickr

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Alexander Hertel-Fernandez
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez studies Government, Social Policy, the Democratic Party, and the politics of federal tax policy at Harvard University.
Vanessa Williamson
Vanessa Williamson studies Government and Taxation at Harvard University.
Image by Ken Teegardin via Flickr

Image by Ken Teegardin via Flickr

“Almost half of all Americans pay no taxes!” That’s the claim bandied about in elections and overheated television talk-fests. It refers only to federal income taxes, from which various groups are exempt. But many other taxes are also collected at the federal, state, and local levels. When all kinds of taxes are added up, almost all Americans pay substantial amounts.  In fact, poor and middle-income people frequently fork over higher shares of their incomes than the very rich.

Federal Income and Payroll Taxes

The U.S. federal government relies on two big taxes collected from large numbers of Americans: the federal income tax and payroll taxes regularly deducted from wages and salaries to cover Social Security and Medicare benefits. Income and payroll taxes each contribute about 40% of federal revenues. Almost half of U.S. households currently do not owe federal income taxes, but over three-fifths of these “non-filers” are workers who contribute very substantial payroll taxes. For example, Americans making the lowest incomes pay nearly 9% of their wages in payroll taxes, about the same percentage as middle-income workers pay.

Only about 17% of American households pay neither income nor payroll taxes, because they are headed by people in special sub-groups:

  • Elderly men and women, who previously contributed payroll taxes during their working lives, living on their Social Security benefits.
  • Students or disabled individuals.
  • Workers unable to find jobs. During the recent recession, the numbers of long-term unemployed people not filing income tax returns went up.
  • Active-duty members of the U.S. military, who do not have to pay taxes on their combat pay and do not owe income tax after having been deployed. (more…)

Beyond Class War: Americans Want Government To Promote Equal Opportunity

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


LarryJacobs
Lawrence R. Jacobs studies presidential and legislative politics, elections, voting behavior, policy, and American political history at the University of Minnesota.

Occupy Wall Street has put a public face on the backlash against growing inequality. As most Americans struggle to make ends meet, income and wealth at the very top continue to burgeon, in bad times as well as good. Although rag-tag protesters have been vilified, protests against the widest economic disparities in more than a century resonate with the wider public. For some time, the best research has documented shared American worries about inequality and broad support for steps to enhance opportunity. (more…)

How the New Voter ID Laws Impede Disadvantaged Citizens

The 2012 MN State Fair featured booths for both the "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" Voter ID Law camps. Photo by abiodork via flickr.com.

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Marcus Anthony Hunter
Marcus Anthony Hunter is in the sociology department at Yale University. He is the author of the forthcoming Black Citymakers: How the Philadelphia Negro Changed Urban America.

On March 14, 2012, Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed into law his state’s version of strict voter ID rules that require voters to present a dated, government-issued form of photo identification before they enter the voting booth. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who believe they have the right to vote—many of whom have voted regularly—found themselves checking to see if they have correct documentation. If not, they would need to make time to get to government offices, often inconveniently located and open at limited hours.

Every American citizen has the right to vote—or so most of us assume, thinking the issue was finally settled by the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. But a fresh struggle has erupted, as states impose new rules in the name of fighting “voter fraud” and civil rights advocates point to “voter suppression” threatening hard-won democratic rights. What are the new rules at issue—and are critics correct to suggest that they have a discriminatory impact? (more…)