Category: Poverty

13317570-indoor-crime-sceneEmily Badger at The Atlantic Wire posts a common sense story regarding the debate about whether or not the dispersing of poor people out of inner-city housing projects into suburban neighborhoods, through government housing voucher programs, increases crime rates. The article reflects recent research by Michael Lens, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA.

A growing stack of research now supports [the] hypothesis that housing vouchers do not in fact lead to crime. Lens has just added another study to that literature, published in the journal Urban Studies. He looked at crime and housing data in 215 cities between 1997 and 2008 – controlling for national and regional crime trends, demographic and income variables, employment rates and more – and found “virtually no relationship” between the prevalence of Housing Choice Voucher Program households and higher crime at the city level or in the suburbs. In previous research, Lens and colleagues had investigated the same question at the neighborhood level.

“Although communities with a higher prevalence of voucher households appear to be higher in crime,” Lens writes, “there is no evidence that this is due to voucher households increasing crime.”

Lens’ findings should not sound too surprising given the fact that poverty does not cause criminal behavior in the first place. In fact, immoral behavior has never been a function of class but a matter of moral fortitude. Granted, poverty most certainly introduces particular temptations (Prov 30:8) but so does wealth (Prov 22:16). Poor people do not have more moral limitations than those who are wealthy. To assume such is make human dignity a function of class and once we cross that road, the poor find themselves the victims of patronizing oppression.

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city-journal-hirschOne of the core principles of the Acton Institute is commitment to wealth creation since material impoverishment undermines the conditions that allow humans to flourish. We consider helping our fellow citizens to escape material deprivation to be one of the most morally significant economic concerns of our age. But how to do we gauge whether our neighbors are able to improve their economic security? A key metric that is often used is income or social mobility, the ability of an individual to improve their economic status over time.

Last month I noted a study that highlighted four broad factors that appear to affect income mobility:

1. The size and dispersion of the local middle class,
2. Two-parent households,
3. Better elementary schools and high schools, and
4. Civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Saying that schools should be “better” is unhelpfully vague. But a recent article in City Journal by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., explains just what qualitative factor is most important: The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.

Hirsch’s article is one of the most important essays on education published this year — perhaps even of the decade. I highly encourage you to read the entire feature. But if you only have time for a bullet-point presentation, here are ten key facts and recommendations from Hirsch’s brilliant article:

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foodieFood has been an essential part of Christian culture since Jesus shared a last meal with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. So it’s not surprising that Christians — especially young Christians in urban areas — are the epicurean hobby culture of “foodies.” But as Erik Bonkovsky, a pastor in Richmond, Virginia, says, a truly great and thoroughly Christian food scene is one that blesses the privileged and under-privileged alike:

Foodie culture—particularly with a local and healthy dimension—is now ubiquitous in every major city. Farmers markets, local-sourced menus, and farm-to-table operations have proliferated. However, many of these increased food options are limited to the well-resourced. ‘Foodie culture’ has become one more way to cultivate a lifestyle-based identity. One wonders, “If I cook local-grazed free-range pork without posting it on Instagram, did I really eat it?”

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appalachiaTelevision evangelist Pat Robertson is certainly known for saying provocative things, and he’s done it again.

When Robertson’s co-host, Wendy Griffith, said not all families could afford to have multiple children, Robertson replied, ‘That’s the big problem, especially in Appalachia. They don’t know about birth control. They just keep having babies.’

‘You see a string of all these little ragamuffins, and not enough food to eat and so on,’ he said, and it’s desperate poverty.’

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HOPE_logo_vert_color-251x300In an interview with Forbes‘ Jerry Bower, Peter Greer, president and CEO of the the Hope International, explains why church foreign aid programs often hurts those its meant to help:

Greer: There’s an entrepreneur named Jeff Rutt, and after the fall of the Soviet Union he had a desire to go over with his church and help. So, initially they did what people so often do, which is see that people don’t have food and then send over food, and see that people don’t have adequate clothes for the harsh Ukrainian winter and then go in their closets and send things over. And all of that is good, all of that is appropriate, all of that is needed in response to a crisis. But as Jeff did that, after a couple of years it was the team in Ukraine that eventually said—“

Bower: “Your help is hurting.”

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Cheryl Miller, Executive Director of Perpetual Help Home (a PovertyCure partner) offers insight to poverty in America in this new video. Miller, an Acton University alumnus, focuses on the dignity of the human being.

human-sex-traffickingThe combination of poverty, sexual trafficking, and technology has given rise to a new form of slavery: cyber-sex trafficking. As CNN explains, anyone who has a computer, internet, a Web cam, and an exploited woman or child can be in business:

Andrea was 14 years old the first time a voice over the Internet told her to take off her clothes.

“I was so embarrassed because I don’t want others to see my private parts,” she said. “The customer told me to remove my blouse and to show him my breasts.”

She was in a home in Negros Oriental, a province known for its scenic beaches, tourism and diving. But she would know none of that beauty. Nor would she know the life she’d been promised.

Andrea, which is not her real name, said she had been lured away from her rural, mountain village in the Philippines by a cousin who said he would give her a well-paid job as a babysitter in the city. She thought she was leaving her impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money to finish high school. Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation — cyber-sex trafficking.

Read more . . .

51ddbfc3cd43b.preview-300Paychecks are the vehicle for upward mobility, wealth and personal fulfillment in life, says Mike Varney. So why aren’t we doing everything in our power to create more of the jobs that are the source of those paychecks?

It’s all very simple. Companies create jobs. Jobs are what create paychecks. Paychecks are what gives individuals and families purchasing power and choice in their lives. Jobs and paychecks create futures and give humans a sense of purpose, contribution and connection. Jobs are the ticket that enable people to climb from survival to self-actualization on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Joblessness creates the opposite effect: a downward spiral from hope to despair. Aspiration to desperation. In speaking with many of our local non-profit leaders, I have developed a real appreciation for the link between joblessness and insidious societal problems such as domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, homelessness and destruction of the human spirit. Societal ills are generally reported to increase and decrease in direct correlation to employment. Poverty and joblessness have no place to take root in a society where opportunity abounds and where people have a strong work ethic.

Read more . . .

alleviating-poverty“We see poverty in the developing world and we ask—what can I do?” says Michael Matheson Miller, Research Fellow at the Acton Institute and the Director of Poverty Cure, “But what if the question that animates our activity is the wrong one?”

What if instead of asking how we can alleviate poverty, we asked, “How do people in the developing world create prosperity for their families and their communities?” This sounds like a simple shift, but it can transform the way we think about poverty and the poorest among us because it takes the focus off ourselves and puts it where it belongs. People in need are not objects of our charity, they are subjects, and should be seen as the protagonists of their own development. Changing the question helps lead to an inter-subjective relationship.

Ask people in the developing world what they want most, and they don’t mention more aid or charity. They want jobs; they want the opportunity to build businesses; they want access to markets, to broader circles of exchange so they can provide for their families. As Ghanaian entrepreneur Herman Chinery-Hesse told me, “The people here are not stupid. They’re just disconnected from global trade.”

Read more . . .

Depressing statistic of the week:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a total of 101,000,000 people currently participate in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the agency, at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.

That means the number of Americans receiving food assistance has surpassed the number of private sector workers in the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 97,180,000 full-time private sector workers in 2012.

The population of the U.S. is 316.2 million people, meaning nearly a third of Americans receive food aid from the government.