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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Asset Limits and Financial Security: A Conversation on Twitter

August 28, 2013
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Yesterday, the Asset Building Program and ACCESS to Financial Security for All (an initiative of PolicyLink) engaged in a productive conversation on Twitter about the issue of asset limits. Check out the Storify summarizing the conversation below, or at this link.

Asset limits are simply caps on the amount of savings that applicants and recipients of public assistance programs may have to apply or receive support. While these limits were designed to ensure programs target only the most high-needs families and individuals, they ultimately serve as a disincentive to save. By restricting families from having as little as $1000 on hand for an emergency, these limits leave families more economically vulnerable in the long-run and less able to move out of poverty and off assistance. Furthermore, asset limits can add cost and administrative complexity to the benefits administration process, which reduces the efficiency of programs at the state and local level.

Upcoming Twitter Chat with @Access2Assets on Asset Limits and Financial Security

August 23, 2013

The Asset Building Program is looking forward to participating in a Twitter chat this coming Tuesday with our friends at ACCESS, a new web resource for asset building and equity policy experts and advocates to learn, share information and ideas. We’ll be discussing how states can improve financial security for lower-income families and will take a close look at the issue of “asset limits.” We’ll discuss what asset limits are and how they can thwart the savings efforts of hard-working families and undermine public policy goals, such as promoting self-sufficiency.

We’ll also be featuring a new resource we released earlier this summer to help advocates, policymakers, and members of the general public understand how states stack up in terms of encouraging families to achieve financial security while they are receiving public benefits. You can check that out in advance of the chat here.

Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Here’s a short guide on what it is and how it works:

How to Participate

Twitter Chats are simply public conversations that use Twitter as the platform for discussion. Anyone can participate by tweeting their opinion, sharing facts, or asking questions. @Access2Assets, managed by the team that put together the great new website Access to Financial Security For All, will be the moderator for this chat. They’ll be asking questions about what exactly asset limits are and how they work (or, in many cases, fail). Our team, using the @AssetsNAF account, will be providing answers to those questions, as well as guidance on how to make the most of our web-based asset limits resource.

You can participate using your personal or organizational Twitter account by following both @AssetsNAF and @Access2Assets. If you want to actively participate, tweet using the hashtag #assetlimits and we’ll see it and be sure to respond.

If you don’t have a Twitter account, but would still like to ask a question, leave a comment on this post and we’ll address it during the conversation. After the chat, we’ll pull together a Storify, which will summarize some of the main tweets and key takeaways from the chat. Anyone will be able to view that after the event. For an example (and a preview of what this chat will be like) check out the Storify that @Access2Assets created after their chat with Ben Mangan of EARN last month.


Who: @AssetsNAF and @Access2Assets and you!

When: Tuesday, August 27 at 2pm ET/11am PT

What: Use the hashtag #assetlimits to engage in a conversation about savings and financial security.

Let us know if you have any questions about how to participate! We’re excited to have this conversation.

"We are the real experts."

August 19, 2013
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“If you want to find solutions to the issues that people face while living in poverty, people actually living in poverty need to be part of the discussion when decisions are being made.”

Asset Building News Week, July 29-August 2

August 2, 2013
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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 savings and taxes, poverty, public benefits, homeownership and housing, and student debt.

Event Summary: First Focus Children’s Budget Summit

July 25, 2013
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Editor’s note: This post was authored by Calum Montell-Boyd, a summer intern with the Asset Building Program. Calum is working toward his undergraduate degree in History and Politics at Oxford University in the UK.

On Wednesday, First Focus hosted the Children’s Budget Summit 2013, sponsored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray. The event marked the release of the Children’s Budget, which highlights the declining federal investment in children at a time when almost one in four is growing up in poverty.

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