Looking for our new site?


STATEMENT ON CENSUS NUMBERS: Historic Levels of Poverty Make Stronger Savings and Safety Net Imperative

September 17, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2012 national income, poverty and health insurance statistics for the United States. The data show that poverty persisted at near record levels in 2012, afflicting 15 percent of Americans including 21.8 percent of children. The statistics are essentially no different than in 2010 or 2011, with 46.5 million people living below the poverty line.  


September 16, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC — Tomorrow, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its 2012 national income, poverty and health insurance statistics for the United States. The following policy experts with New America’s Asset Building program have been paying close attention to the issues affecting low- and middle-income families and are available for interviews on the new poverty numbers:

Hey Utah: Policymaking via Stereotype Benefits No One

September 12, 2013
Publication Image

Utah’s recent plan to drug test its TANF applicants, like similar proposals from a range of other states, came under scrutiny earlier this summer after it was revealed that a mere 12 applicants failed the test – which cost taxpayers over $30,000 to administer.

So why is the state now claiming that the policy resulted in savings of over $350,000?

I’m glad you asked.

A Conversation on the Weekly Wonk: Should We Bank On It?

September 12, 2013

If you haven't had a chance yet to check out New America's new digital magazine, the Weekly Wonk, have a look. This is an institution-wide effort so the content you'll find there comes from all of our varying policy programs. The magazine will be published every Thursday, and you can sign up to receive it via email on our homepage.

This week's edition featured a conversation among Jamie Zimmerman, director of New America’s Global Assets Project (GAP) and co-author of the just-released “Beyond the Buzz: The Allure and Challenge of using Mobile Phones to Increase Youth Financial Inclusion,” Hibah Hussain, policy program associate at New America’s Open Technology Institute and author of the policy paper “Dialing Down Risks: Mobile Privacy and Information Security in Global Development Projects,” and Eric Tyler, a GAP research fellow.

On the Weekly Wonk:

Imagine a 10-year-old girl in Nepal stashing her weekly allowance not under a floorboard in her room, but in a banking app on her mobile phone. It’s a win-win-win: She’s building assets, averting notorious local banking corruption, and learning tech skills. It’s easy to see why the potential for mobile finance has development experts all over the world drooling. But is that utopian narrative more hype than help? To find out, we convened three analysts for a discussion on whether we should bank on mobile finance to lift youth in the developing world out of poverty.

Jamie, let’s start with you. Your new paper is on the allure and challenge of mobile finance as a way to make banking more accessible to young people in the developing world . Why is mobile such an attractive solution to combat poverty?

Click here to read the rest of the conversation.

Beyond the Low Wage Social Contract

  • By
  • Joshua Freedman,
  • Michael Lind,
  • New America Foundation
September 10, 2013

The issue of low wages has moved to the center of American public debate recently, thanks to protests against the low pay of fast food workers, the large share of poorly-paying and part-time jobs that have been created in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and proposals by President Obama and others to raise the minimum wage. But while the debate may be recent, today’s low wages are neither new nor surprising. On the contrary, they are the result of decades of public policy.

Event Series at the University of Kansas on Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream

September 6, 2013

The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, the Assets and Education Initiative (AEDI), and the KU Social Work Administration and Advocacy Practice are convening a series of events over the next few months about the interplay of assets with upward economic and social mobility. Learn more about the series and RSVP for the first event here.

The first event kicks off next week on September 11 at the University of Kansas. Keynote speaker Dr. Mark Rank, a widely-recognized expert on poverty and inequality, will be discussing his research, including a finding that nearly 60 percent of Americans experience poverty at some point between the ages of 20 and 75. His talk, and the panel discussion to follow, will examine why poverty is portrayed as an individual failing despite its prevalence and structural origins, and how institutions can support (or stop hindering) upward economic mobility. 

Check out the details for Wednesday's event below and make a note of the dates of forthcoming events. In particular, note that our Senior Research Fellow, William Elliott, will be speaking at the November event about his work on improving children's educational outcomes through access to savings. The early 2014 events will feature Tom Shapiro, whose work with the Institute on Assets and Social Policy has greatly informed the national conversation on the causes of racial wealth disparities, and Michael Sherraden, whose work laid the earliest foundations of the asset building field.

The series will be available on livestream for those not able to travel to the Lawrence, Kansas area.

Asset Building News Week, September 2-6

September 6, 2013
Publication Image

The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include retirement, poverty, housing, and financial services.

More Than One in Seven U.S. Households Experienced Food Insecurity Last Year

September 5, 2013
Publication Image

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service released its latest annual report on the state of household food security in the U.S. The report documents the prevalence and severity of food insecurity throughout 2012 and contains data on household spending on food, participation in nutrition assistance programs, and strategies families used to cope with food insecurity.

Prevalence of Food Insecurity 

Approximately 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children lived in food insecure households in 2012. According to the USDA definition of food insecurity, this means a full 49 million Americans lived in households that struggled to access enough food due to a lack of resources last year. Forty-nine million. 49,000,000 people lived in food insecure households in 2012. I'm repeating these numbers to ensure the magnitude of this crisis is made plain. (And as Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, "the data likely understate food insecurity because they don’t include homeless individuals or families.")

Disappointingly, but sadly not surprisingly given the ongoing high rates of poverty and un- and underemployment, "the prevalence of food insecurity has been essentially unchanged since 2008," the report explains. While the food security rate is unacceptably high, it’s important to note that the depth of hardship stemming from a prolonged recession and sluggish recovery was actually mitigated by the responsiveness of our social safety net – most notably the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps). As CBPP has documented in detail, SNAP closely follows the poverty rate, which means the program saw appropriate and needed growth over the past few years as the poverty rate grew.

While Americans of all ages, races, and family structures may face food insecurity, there are persistent gaps in the prevalence of food insecurity among certain demographic groups that have remained relatively consistent over time. Check out the chart below which shows the rate of food insecurity among white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic households (who may be of any race) over the past three years.

Households of color in the U.S. consistently experience rates of food insecurity more than twice that of white households, a phenomenon that points to broader forms of racial inequality, including (but by no means limited to) ongoing disparities in unemployment and access to living wage job opportunities.

Economic Mobility from the State Perspective: Indiana

September 5, 2013
Publication Image
A recent study by economists from Harvard University and University of California at Berkeley caught the eye of many for its first-of-a-kind examination of factors relating to upward economic mobility. Armed with a massive database consisting of 6.3 million children born in 1980 or 1981 - spanning across more than 700 regions, or "commuting zones" in the U.S.  - the authors examined the extent to which these children's parents income determined their own income at the age of 30. With this study in hand, states and regions can now evaluate their policies against hard evidence of what works, and what doesn't, to restore the American Dream.
Speaking of what doesn't work; that shows up clearly in the color-coded map above (an interactive version can be found here). Six southern states make up the largest concentration of low mobility regions in the United States but significant concentrations of low mobility also extends into portions of the Midwest - and right into the heart of Indiana. Of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., Indianapolis ranks 48th - meaning that only in Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA do children from low-income families have less of a chance at escaping poverty. 
The authors of The Equality of Opportunity Project found four common sense factors associated with greater upward mobility: quality K-12 education; a large middle class and a lack of economic segregation by income; the number of two-parent families; and citizen engagement. The mobility barriers common to the southern region include a failure to invest in quality K-12 education especially for low-income families, a struggling middle class (all six of the southern states have right-to-work laws and low union density), high economic segregation, and a history of voter suppression.
To read more and view statistics about how Indiana compares to the rest of the country, check out the full post on the Indiana Institute for Working Families blog.

Asset Building News Week, August 26-30

August 30, 2013
Publication Image

The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include debt, savings, poverty, the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and racial wealth disparities.

Syndicate content