All Articles Tagged "poverty"

Triple Threat: Sanders Sisters Overcome Poverty & Neglect To Pursue Education & Give Back

August 12th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Undoubtedly, every child is born with potential. But challenges, difficult upbringings and unfair circumstances can shroud or even snuff out some of that light. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If anyone can tell you that, it’s the Sanders sisters.

Triplets, Angel, Ashley and Amber Sanders, 24, did not always have a rosy childhood. Angel told The Indianapolis Star that around 7 or 8 she remembers being taken to the Marion County Children’s Guardian Home with her sisters. They obviously weren’t ideal circumstances but as they recalled the stories, all three wore smiles that seemed to suggest that they couldn’t believe that they had not only endured but walked away from that experience triumphant.

“It was like the movies,” Angel said. “There was a room with a bunch of kids and a bunch of beds. There was a little cubby for your stuff.”

And then her sister Amber interjected: “Some of those kids were bad.” She told The Star, they stayed in that home for a few weeks before being placed in foster care with a relative. And that was just one time. Before their childhood ended, the triplets would spend two long stints in foster care, several months in shelters with their mother, who had a substance abuse problem, and transferred to several different schools, homes and apartments. So many that the three of them have a hard time remembering all of them.

Ashley said, “It’s almost like a dream-it seems so far away. If we didn’t have each other, I don’t know how we could have done it. I don’t know who we would have had to talk to about all the things were were going through.”

Thankfully, the Sanders sisters found confidantes in their high school teachers and advisors.

Amber recalled having suicidal thoughts after being bullied as a young teenagers and all three of the girls remember cutting themselves for a brief period trying to cope with their emotional pain. Thankfully, the sisters, after landing at the Indianapolis Metropolitan School, were able to find teachers who were willing to council them.

Amber said, “Talking to teachers helped a lot. We were really quiet for a long time; it was like we never talked in public. But once we talked to our reached about everything, I felt we were more outgoing. We hadn’t known how to communicated and I just wanted to be quiet because I was mad about everything going on. I feel like talking to the teachers just helped me learn to speak up and find my voice.”

They certainly did. It was during their high school years that the sisters discovered their passion for languages, studying everything form Arabic to Chinese.

Principal of the Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, Clete Ladd remembers the trio well.

“They’re probably the hardest working kids I’ve ever met in my lifetime.” He recalled the sister rising above the violent and impoverished neighborhoods which they often lived and honing their energies on resumes, test scores and improving their grades. Ladd said, if one of the girls received an A- on a research paper, all three of them would march up to their teachers trying to find out what they needed to do to receive an A.

Ladd said one day the sisters, who always traveled in a group, came to his office to inquire about receiving an Academic Honors diploma. In Indianapolis Metropolitan, a high-poverty charter school, these types of diplomas were uncommon at the time. But Ladd says the sisters not only earned the diplomas for themselves, they encouraged fellow classmates to join them.

They also participated in a few after-school and summer programs, all which worked to prepare them for college.

They ultimately decided on Indiana University, (IU) because they knew they needed to escape the city life. They used scholarships to finance their educations and their high school teachers, and Principal Lad, continued to help them, serving as mentors and driving the three to and from IU at the beginning and end of each semester.

“I knew we needed to get away.” Amber said.

A change of scenery helped them.  Angel majored in international studies and Amber and Ashley focused on East Asian languages. All three graduated with bachelor’s degrees a g.p.a. of at least 3.1.

But their education hasn’t stopped. They’ve been accepted to graduate school in South Korea. Their high school mentors have created a website to help raise funds for the sisters. You can learn more about it here.

Currently, each of the sisters help mentor children faced with some of the traumas they endured growing up.

“Kids need to know there are people that care about them. Teachers helped us.” Ashley said.

Angel reiterated her sister’s sentiment, reflecting on their own lives.

“I look back and I feel like all of the pain was building up inside of us because for a long time we had nobody to talk to other than each other. We felt so much better once we started talking to teachers and sharing our stories.”

Office Of Minority Health Report Finds Nearly 2 In 5 Black & Latino Males Lack Health Insurance

July 15th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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A new report from the Office of Minority Health finds that nearly 40 percent — two in five — African American and Latino males don’t have health insurance. Among these uninsured black men, 59 percent report an income at or below the national poverty line.

The report, “Characteristics of Uninsured Adult Males by Race and Ethnicity (Ages 19 to 64 Years)” is a snapshot of the state of health care for men of various races across the US. While we’ve focused quite a bit on how the Affordable Care Act is bringing more Americans on to much-needed health care plans, the uproar the law has caused among Republicans, and the impact that the new mandates — and the Supreme Court decisions against them — has on women, there’s also men’s health to be concerned with.

According to the latest numbers, eight million people have signed up for health insurance under the ACA. The Office of Minority Health is a special effort within the Department of Health and Human Services charged with creating policies and programs that benefit minorities and reduce health disparities in this country. This latest report shows that there’s a big gap in access to health insurance. In every age group, white men have the lowest percentage of people lacking health insurance (Asian men are next). African American and Latino men have the highest.

“An important factor in making progress toward reducing health disparities and achieving health equity is our ability to understand why disparities occur and how to eliminate them,” Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health, told us via email.

“This type of knowledge about the patterns of uninsurance among adult minority men prior to the establishment of the Health Insurance Marketplace and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility can be a powerful tool for organizations today.  It  can help them develop targeted interventions to ensure that more men of color and their families obtain access to opportunities for coverage and preventive health benefits to improve the health status of all Americans,” she continued.

Poverty is a closely-related issue, specifically among African-American men, who are more often at the federal poverty level (FPL) than any other racial group. Forty-three percent of African-American men have no full-time worker in their household, also the highest percentage among the racial groups examined.

For more from the Office of Minority Health, click here. The site has information about everything from cancer to AIDS and infant health. And you can get the full report on men’s health here.

And if you’re interested in the mental health issue, be sure to tune in to Twitter on Thursday, July 17 at 2pm ET, using the hashtag #MMHMChat. MN Business will be there along with the Office of Minority Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services. The chat, marking Minority Mental Health Month, will cover everything from the cultural differences on the issue of mental health to reducing the disparities between different ethnic groups. Have your questions ready for this important topic!

Southern Living Isn’t Easy: The South Sees Major Increase In Poverty

July 3rd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Other parts of the country may be on the rebound from the recession. But don’t count the South in that group. Even today, the South is poorer than the rest of the nation, according to new findings.

North Carolina and a number of other Southern U.S. states had the biggest increases in the number of people living in “poverty areas” between 2000 and 2010, according to a just released Census Bureau report. “Poverty areas are places where more than 20 percent of the people live below the federal poverty line, which varies by family size. For a family of four, the poverty line in most states is an annual income of $23,850,” reports The Huffington Post.

And the number of poor Americans is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, some 25.7 percent of all Americans live in poverty-stricken areas.  This is a major increase from 18.1 percent in 2000, found the report. Lack of money is not they only thing that affects these areas; poverty areas most commonly have “higher crime rates, poor housing conditions, and fewer job opportunities,” states the report. And majority of these poverty areas are located in the South.

Five of the six biggest states to see an increase in poverty areas were in the South. Southern states typically trail behind the rest of the country in things like wages, economic mobility and access to health care, and take the lead in poverty, obesity and general unhappiness. “Another thing Southern states have in common is Republican political leaders that have spent the past decade shrinking the social safety net,” reports HuffPo.

There are two Southern states–Louisiana and West Virginia–who did not follow the downward trend. These states saw the number of people living in poverty decrease during the decade.

But the region that saw the largest overall rise in the number of people living in poverty areas between 2000 and 2010 was actually the Midwest, not the South. That may, however, be attributed to the fact that the Midwest had relatively low numbers to begin with while the South began with extremely high rates of people living in poverty-stricken areas.

Oftentimes, when we think about poverty, our minds go to third-world countries, when in fact it’s right here as well. It’s an issue that requires our attention and the services and investment to combat.

Started From The Bottom: Does Growing Up Without A Silver Spoon Make You Less Of A BOSS?

April 21st, 2014 - By CAP
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Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/

Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/

Before I get into the nitty gritty of my position, know that I am aware that almost all statistics support the fact that growing up privileged leads to a greater rate of success in life. However, there are some distinct examples of people who grew up under some of the worst conditions becoming massively more successful than others from similar backgrounds. In some cases, more so than those from the most privileged backgrounds.

Malcom Gladwell, renowned author of books like Blink and Outliers, dedicated an entire book to this subject, in David and Goliath. He states:

“There is a set of advantages that have to do with material resources, and there is a set that have to do with the absence of material resources-and the reason underdogs win as often as they do is that the latter is sometimes every bit the equal of the former.”

Plainly put, growing up with disadvantages, can lead to significant advantages in life. For example, anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite sayings is, “What’s the difference between me and Oprah?” It’s not quite grammatically correct, but a provoking thought all the same. To me Oprah’s upbringing is the epitome of struggle and what she has accomplished in her life is the epitome of success. She was mistreated, sexually abused and promiscuous as a teenager. However, Oprah’s grandmother taught her to read at a very young age and that was her escape all throughout her hardships. Even after gaining some stride in her career she was rejected several times, which she overcame with ease.

Oprah was treated so horribly as a youth that she knew she had seen and been through so much and still remained standing, that this built up a resistance, and as a result, confidence which helped her overcome rejection. Furthermore, by using books as a means to escape her troubles, she was able to craft her skills in communication and journalism which aided in propelling her success. Without these struggles would Oprah be who she is today?

How much did being blind contribute to make Ray and Stevie great? Or that the President of the United States grew up practically fatherless? And did I mention Oprah?

Malcolm Gladwell explains how people from privileged backgrounds face so little adversity, they don’t build up a sense to think outside the box because they don’t have to. Whereas when you live through adversity you may have to think outside the box on a daily basis just to survive.

We have to learn to embrace the struggle, turn our negatives into positives, and channel our anger into energy. For example, a product of the struggle could be considered fast talking, scheming, angry, and a hustler. In positive application, these same negative characteristic could transfer into being charismatic, convincing, thoughtful… and a BOSS.

Can The Inequality Gap Be A Color-Blind Issue? Politicans Act Like It Is

March 20th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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One of the latest political/social issues to grab a lot of attention is the inequality gap. But the discussions often dance around the notion of how race affects the gap. In 1967, in throes of the Civil Rights movement the median household income was 43 percent higher for white, non-Hispanic households than for black households. Things have changed, but for the worse! In 2011, median white household income was 72 percent higher than median black household income, according to a Census report from that year.

The gap is even more glaring when you look at the median household wealth instead of yearly income, reports MSN. The Pew Research Center found that in 1984, the white-to-black wealth ratio was 12-to-1. It narrowed by 1995 when the median white income was 5-to-1 to black income. But incredibly, by 2009 the ratio shot up to a whopping 19-to-1.

Despite this, politicians are avoiding discussing race and the inequality gap. A new 204-page analysis of the federal War on Poverty, led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), barely mentions racial disparity. And remember Ryan recently said poverty is due in part to the fact that “inner cities” have a culture of “men not working,” a comment he ultimately called “inarticulate.”

While President Obama did note that “the painful legacy of discrimination means that African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity—higher unemployment, higher poverty rates” during a December 2013 address, it was just one line.

So why the deliberate avoidance of race? “I think it doesn’t make for good politics,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson says. “It’s messy and requires us to be deep and think about much bigger and more long-term solutions than Washington’s oftentimes willing to deal with.” But when taking about employment and home ownership it is hard to keep out the issue of race.

A recently study from Brandeis University found that the disparities in homeownership are a major driver of the racial wealth gap especially due to “redlining, discriminatory mortgage-lending practices and lack of access to credit.

And for those black families who finally owned homes, the Great Recession reversed the advancements, many losing their homes in foreclosure.

And when it comes to employment, black unemployment is still twice as high as white unemployment—a ratio that has been solid since the mid-1950s.

“The underlying narrative that many people share is that whatever inequities still exist, they’re due to the misbehavior or dysfunctional behavior of black folks themselves,” said William Darity Jr., the director of Duke University’s Consortium on Social Equity. “So there’s no reason to pay attention to racial disparities because one doesn’t believe they’re still significant, or there’s no need for public policy action by the government because it’s just a question of black folks changing their own behaviors.”

Even Obama often likes to stress personal responsibility when addressing the black community. His new “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative emphasizes it in its effort to help young men of color.

Darity argues that self-perpetuating inequality will only be broken through wealth transfers.

“People’s behaviors are largely shaped by the resources they possess, and if their resources altered, than they might change their behaviors,” he said.

Thousands Of Black & Latino Kids Saw Their Schools Closed In 2013

January 2nd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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You’d think schools would be protected by government cuts, but thousands of black and Latinos lost their schools in 2013. And this happened all over the country.

In Philadelphia, a slew of school closures over the summer meant a longer, and often less safe, journey to other elementary and middle schools further away.

According to city officials the closed schools had been underutilized or were underperforming, and their closure, students have an opportunity to attend better-equipped schools.

Chicago closed about 150 schools over the past 10 years and in the city, 88 percent of the students affected by the school closures are African American. Philadelphia is just as bad–81 percent are black. In the city’s more than 93 percent of the affected students are from poor families. “The numbers have played out much the same way in Detroit, New York, Newark, NJ, Oakland and Washington, D.C. Parents of school children in each of these cities have filed federal complaints under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to fight school closings,” reports MSNBC.

The closures have forced students to have to travel longer to schools, often through unwelcoming neighborhoods. Plus, classroom sizes have gotten so large that students don’t have desks to sit in.

Despite this, officials have portrayed school closures has something that would improve education. Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter said in June that the school board “made tough choices, but they made the right choice. We need to downsize the system.”

Some other school building now house charter schools.

This has opened up the debate on charter schools, which are basically publicly funded schools with private management that operate. In many of the cities with mass school closings, officials have invested in the expansion of charter schools. And supporters of charter schools say the schools offer parents a quality option instead of failing neighborhood schools.

School officials in Newark recently caused an uproar when they announced massive school restructuring that included closing some schools and placing a number of charter schools in current district-owned buildings.

Over in Chicago, the Public Schools proposed the addition of 21 new privately run charter schools. This after closing nearly 50 schools over the summer. The district is facing a $1 billion deficit, yet a recent analysis showed that 21 new charter schools could cost taxpayers as much as $225 million over the next decade.

Race has played a major part in the closing.

With echoes of busing from the 1960s, the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this year upheld a ruling that allowed thousands of mostly poor black students to leave their failing school districts and attend better schools in far-off, affluent communities. White parents were angry about the decision, saying they feared that black students from poor communities would bring with them drugs and violence. Those fears never materialized.

“We get calls from black kids in jail every day, saying, we need some help. They all have three things in common that are consistently true: they are black, they come from a poor socioeconomic strata and they’ve had a poor damn education,” said Adolphus Pruitt, head of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP.

Nationwide, 1,929 schools were closed during the 2010-2011 school year alone, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Being Poor Leads People To Make ‘Bad’ Financial Decisions

November 26th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Being poor can hurt a person’s ability to make sound financial decisions, or make choices about school and life in general. A landmark Science study has concluded that poverty is basically similar to losing 13 IQ points.

So if being poor leads to bad decision-making (as opposed to the other way around), then giving cash should alleviate the cognitive burdens of poverty, all on its own, reports The Atlantic.

Neuroscientists Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire examined time, uncertainty and decision-making and they found that virtues like patience and self-control weren’t as simple as other studies suggested. For example, a marshmallow study found that kids who are given the sweet treat and ate it right away were thought of as impatient and kids who waited had self-control. On the whole, those children who waited went on to lead more productive lives.

But that kind of self-control in the real world “isn’t so black-and-white,” Dr. Kable tells the magazine. Perhaps the inescapability of poverty weighs so heavily on the poor that they abandon long-term planning entirely, because the short-term needs are so great and the long-term gains so implausible. The train is just not coming. Maybe the psychology of poverty, which can seem so irrational to those not in poverty, is actually the most rational response to an unpredictable world.

Business Insider quotes a despairing comment left on the Kinja site to illustrate the point:

It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be. It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to.

“None of this is an argument against poorer families trying to save or plan for the long-term. It’s an argument for context,” notes The Atlantic. Science study author Eldar Shafir told the magazine, “All the data shows it isn’t about poor people, it’s about people who happen to be in poverty. All the data suggests it is not the person, it’s the context they’re inhabiting.”

Can America End Poverty By Giving People ‘Free’ Money?

November 14th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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The idea of  the government giving every adult a basic income has sparked a lot of discussion in recent weeks with a proposal of a free money giveaway from The Atlantic‘s Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker. Then Annie Lowrey revisited the concept recently in the New York Times. They contemplate whether we could cut poverty with these measure.

According to a September Census Bureau report , 15 percent of Americans (46.5 million) live below the poverty line. Even though government benefits like food stamps help lift some of them above the line, millions still live below it.

For this program, people would literally get money in the mail that they can use to improve their situation. “The government would mail every American over the age of 21 a check each month. That’s it. Everyone is free to do what they like with it,” reports Business Insider.

While it sounds simple, the money still has to come from somewhere.

“In 2012, there were 179 million Americans between the ages of 21 and 65 (when Social Security would kick in). The poverty line was $11,945,” reports Business Insider.  When adding this up, it would mean it will cost $2.14 trillion to give each working-age American a basic income equal to the poverty line. In comparison, U.S. GDP was nearly $16 trillion in 2012 and $700 billion was allotted to the defense budget.

A minimum income would also allow the government to eliminate benefits like SNAP and housing vouchers. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report revealed  that the federal government spends about $750 billion annually on benefits for low-income Americans; this figure rises to a trillion when state programs are factored in. If the government eliminates all of those, the net figure comes out to $1.2 trillion needed to pay for a universal basic income.

There are other ways to pay for the “free” money. “The CBO found that a carbon tax would bring in nearly $100 billion a year for instance. Revenue would also increase automatically since everyone would have a basic income on which to pay taxes,” reports Business Insider.

With a basic income and the security that comes with it, we could also see other changes in society. For instance, workers would have to courage to demand better wages and working conditions. But there are also fears that a program like this would encourage some not to work.

Of course, all of this is just talk right now since it would require Congressional approval. “Congress can’t even keep the government open or pass a budget, much less revamp our entire benefits program into a basic income,” reports Business Insider.

What do you think of the basic income idea?

NJ’s Poor Overlooked In Superstorm Sandy Recovery, Many Still Waiting One Year Later

October 31st, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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A Staten Islane vigil for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Getty Images

A Staten Island vigil for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Getty Images

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy. Hard to believe because some of the devastated areas still haven’t recovered. Superstorm Sandy left billions of dollars of damage in its wake up the East Coast. Today, there’s a $26-million ad campaign declaring New Jersey “stronger than the storm.” And on many occasions during the recovery, Gov. Chris Christie and federal officials, including President Barack Obama, have toured the state’s ocean-side tourist attractions and communities with single-family homes. “But beneath the state’s seemingly happy story of storm recovery lies what a group of fair-housing and civil rights advocates say is a series of ugly but important truths,” reports The Root.

“Sandy shattered lives all over the state, up and down the income ladder,” says Mike McNeil, who is chairman of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference Housing Committee. “The people hit — and I mean hit hard and still hurting — don’t all own homes and businesses at the shore. But they aren’t getting much help.”

According to an analysis released last week by a New Jersey nonprofit, the Fair Share Housing Center, a disproportionate share of disaster-relief funds have been funneled to the state’s moderate- and upper-income households and homeowners. Renters and low- to moderate-income families — in the state, who are mostly black or Latino — haven’t experienced anything similar.

“I think we can say without question that officials in the states affected by Sandy did a lot better job getting people out of harm’s way,” says Kevin Walsh, a lawyer with the Fair Share Housing Center. “But I think in the recovery, the subsequent trauma, the disregard for the needs of so many poor and working families, and how many of those people happen to be black or Latino, is certainly similar to Katrina — disturbingly similar.”

There have been complaints, of course. In April a group of nonprofit organizations — the Latino Action Network, the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP and the Fair Share Housing Center — filed an official discrimination (fair housing) complaint against the Christie administration. The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A second complaint followed this summer from the Latino Action Network, and in October it formally lodged its concerns with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

There have even been lawsuits. In September the Fair Share Housing Center also filed a suit to force the administration to share what it believes should be additional public information about the people who have applied for, received and been denied storm-recovery aid.

The Housing and Community Development Network’s own data found that about 47 percent of those affected by Sandy were renters — a disproportionate share of whom are black or Latino. However, New Jersey officials initially submitted much different information to the federal government in the state’s initially request for storm-victim aid. For one thing, state officials used a method that counted a storm-damaged 100-unit apartment complex as just one or two addresses, instead of a place where hundreds of people may have lived before Sandy. So the government missed potentially hundreds of  mostly poor people–leaving them literally in the cold when it came to recovery funding and housing.

The Reality Of Child Poverty: The Nation’s Poorest Are Children Of Color

September 20th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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In 43 states, child poverty has increased significantly since The Great Recession settled across America. The only states that saw a decrease are Texas and Illinois. African-American and Hispanic children under six, according to The Children’s Defense Fund, have suffered the most through the nation’s slow-moving economic recovery.

Thirteen states have a child poverty rate higher than 25 percent, according to data pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Mississippi, 34.7 percent of toddlers live in poverty and 29.3 percent of New Mexico’s children live with hardship. Both states have the highest rates of child poverty.

These statistics will be sure to rise if the proposal to cut $40 million  SNAP benefits over the next 10 years is signed into law. (More on that in a coming story.) “How is it possible when millions of children are poor, Congress could for one minute consider cutting their food assistance,”asked Marian Wright Edelman in a press statement, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Elise Gould, an economist, would agree: “Now is no time to be considering cuts to the safety net.” Gould’s analysis using data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the important of federal assistance for curbing poverty. “In 2012, 1.7 million people were kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance and 15.3 million elderly Americans were kept out of poverty by Social Security,” Gould added.

“All Americans including those in Congress have to recognize that Black and Hispanic children already are a majority of our babies and are the face of our future. We need them to be productive,” Edelman said. “Every year we keep over 16 million children in poverty we are losing hundreds of billions of dollars. Children did not cause the recession and they should not have to suffer from the recklessness of others.”

Between 2009 and 2012, only the wealthiest five percent saw income gains. For more than a decade now, poverty levels have been on an ascending trajectory. “The poverty rate increased between 2000 and 2007 from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent, then continued to rise through the Great Recession,” according to Gould’s report.

With the recession leaving 24 states with a quarter of impoverished children (under the age of six), Edelman concludes,”[c]hildren’s ability to survive, thrive and develop must not depend on the lottery of geography of birth. A child is a child and should be protected by a national floor of decency. We can and must end child poverty.”