Poverty News Round Up

Here are five of  the important poverty related stories from the past two weeks. Let us know in comments if we missed something.

1. The NY Times reports on the lifelong health and wellness impacts of growing up in poverty.

“Poverty damages children’s dispositions and blunts their brains. We’ve seen articles about the language deficit in poorer homes and the gaps in school achievement. These remind us that — more so than in my mother’s generation — poverty in this country is now likely to define many children’s life trajectories in the harshest terms: poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and health problems from obesity anddiabetes to heart disease, substance abuse and mental illness.

Recently, there has been a lot of focus on the idea of toxic stress, in which a young child’s body and brain may be damaged by too much exposure to so-called stress hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine. When this level of stress is experienced at an early age, and without sufficient protection, it may actually reset the neurological and hormonal systems, permanently affecting children’s brains and even, we are learning, their genes.”

2. Poverty and Policy reports on the cuts to food stamps that are making their way through congress.

“Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee finished a bill that cuts the program by $4.1 billion over the next 10 years. This is slightly less than last year’s proposed cut, but only because the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate has changed.

The House Agriculture Committee boosted its food stamp cuts to approximately $21 billion* over the same 10-year period. This $4.5 billion increase over last year reflects substantive changes in the proposed legislation.”

3. Poverty is shifting to the suburbs. There are now more total suburban poor than urban poor, although poverty rates remain higher in urban areas.

“In 2011, the suburban poor outnumbered the urban poor by three million; from 2000 to 2011, the number of poor people soared by 64 percent in the suburbs, compared with 29 percent in cities. Today nearly one-third of all Americans are poor or nearly poor. One in three poor Americans live in the suburbs. If you’re poor in the Seattle, Atlanta or Chicago regions, you’re more likely than not living outside the city limits.”

4. Much of the gap in education results between high and low income children is driven not by public schooling inequality, but by how prepared they are to enter kindergarten.

“…schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school. There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.”

5. Community Colleges are failing to live up to their potential, which is particularly troubling given the socioeconomic and racial divide between community colleges and other colleges.

“Of community college entrants, 81.4 percent say they plan on getting a bachelor’s degree. Only 11.6 percent end up doing so.”