Category: Poverty

Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
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These Russian Orthodox cosmonauts get it. Click photo for source.

… Or does religion need Mars? So argues social commentator James Poulos at Foreign Affairs:

What’s clear is that Earth no longer invites us to contemplate, much less renew, our deepest spiritual needs. It has filled up so much with people, discoveries, information, and sheer stuff that it’s maddening to find what F. Scott Fitzgerald called a fresh green breast of a new world — the experience of truly open horizons and an open but specific future. That’s a problem that does suggest a terrible calamity, if not exactly an imminent apocalypse. But by making a fresh pilgrimage to a literally new world — say, red-breasted Mars — we could mark our pilgrims’ progress from the shadows of ignorance and apartness from God.

I’m sympathetic to Poulos’s general point that Mars — and those, like Elon Musk, who want to colonize it — needs religion. (Perhaps even Calvinism in particular!) However, I’m not so sure that Earth has lost its ability to evoke spiritual renewal. (more…)

global-poverty-2-15The number of people living in extreme poverty continues to decline, notes a report released yesterday by the World Bank.

In 2013, the year of the latest comprehensive data on global poverty, an estimated 767 million people were living below the international poverty line of $1.90 per person per day. This is a decrease of about 100 million compared with 2012. The decline is primarily attributed to the reductions in the number of the extreme poor in South Asia (37 million fewer poor) and East Asia and the Pacific (71 million fewer poor). Those areas show a change in the extreme poverty headcount ratio of 2.4 and 3.6 points, respectively

The one region where poverty remains doggedly persistent is Sub-Saharan Africa. This area has the world’s largest headcount ratio (41.0 percent) and is home to the largest number of the poor (389 million)—more than all other regions of the globe combined. The report points out that this is a “notable shift with respect to 1990, when half of the poor were living in East Asia and Pacific, which, today, is home to only 9.3 percent of the global poor.”

The key difference between East Asia and the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa? Economic growth. Unfortunately, while noting this fact, the researchers who wrote the World Bank’s report claim the real problem is inequality. While inequality may be symptomatic of extreme poverty, it is not the primary cause—as the World Bank’s own report reveals.

For example, the report tut-tuts the increase in income of the top 1 percent (which is a key driver of income inequality):
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On September 12-14 the Acton Institute’s Rome office hosted its third annual “Economics, Development and Human Flourishing” conference in Assisi for seminarians and formation staff of the Vatican’s Pontifical Urban College.

Intense discussion and open debate was stimulated by challenging lectures on economics, political philosophy, anthropology, and Catholic social doctrine. The lectures were reinforced by showings of the Institute’s  video curriculum “PovertyCure”, a six-episode DVD rich in graphic content, intellectual analysis and dramatic stories about poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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An African seminarian asks a tough question about economic injustice.

The second-year theology students — from different developing-world nations spanning 3 continents– listened attentively and asked provocative questions related to economic growth and poverty alleviation. Many questions regarded political corruption, crony capitalism, the causes of wealth, the meaning of vocation, material scarcity, as well as some very specific economic concerns in their home countries.

Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Poverty, Inc. producer Michael Matheson Miller traveled from Grand Rapids, while academic contributions from Rome scholars included Istituto Acton’s director, Kishore Jayabalan, and Salvatore Rebecchini, president of SIMEST, a company that promotes Italian investment in foreign markets. (more…)

school-deskThe current problems with the school-to-prison pipeline often start with poor school discipline policies. Various school discipline policies and tactics have recently come under criticism for being overly harsh—often causing students to drop out of school. The frequent use of suspension and expulsion for minor offenses has become commonplace in many schools across the country.

Over the summer Gina Raimondo, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, signed a bill into law making it harder for schools to suspend students for minor infractions. The law creates stricter guidelines for when students can be sent home from school in order to lower the number of suspensions. High suspension rates are just one of the contributing factors to the school-to-prison pipeline. A Febuary 2015 study by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies looked at some of the contributing factors to the problem and how the policies affect different parts of the population.

Data cited in the report found that most suspensions occur in secondary school and are rarely used in younger grades. Students who had a disability were suspended twice as much as non-disabled students in the 2009-10 school year. One out of 3 students with an emotional disturbance were suspended.
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Blog author: KHanby
Thursday, September 15, 2016
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Pope FrancisPope Francis recently referred to climate change as a sin in a message he gave on the world day of prayer.  Research fellow at the Acton Institute, Dylan Pahman, had a lot to say about this in a new article at The Stream. He commented on Francis’ message as well as analyzing the effects on the poor of some of the policy prescriptions that Francis has praised. He says:

What seems to be lost on these hierarchs is what to do about the problem. The pope praises the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, but similar statements have not proven effective in combating climate change. What has proven effective? Industrialization and free markets. Really.

In the short run, of course, industrialization is the problem. A quick glance at a global pollution map reveals that newly-industrialized China and India are some of the worst offenders. However, so long as we truly care about the poor, we must not overlook the fact that these countries are where the greatest progress in overcoming poverty has happened since the 1970s. Hundreds of millions of people have escaped crushing poverty through the industrialization and increased liberalization of their economies.

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Every year, the U.S. Census comes out with its report on incomes and poverty. And every year the same finding repeatedly surprises me.

As economist David Henderson says, the report “always shows that there is mobility between income categories, even in the short run, and that poverty is temporary for most people in America who experience it. Virtually all reporters ignore it.”

First, the bad news. The report reveals that during the 4-year period from 2009 to 2012, more than one out of three Americans (34.5 percent) had at least one spell of poverty lasting 2 or more months.

But the good news is that few people stayed in poverty all four years. Chronic poverty from 2009 to 2012 was relatively uncommon, with 2.7 percent of the population living in poverty all 48 months.
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globe-hands-missionsMore and more, Western churches are opening their eyes to the risks and temptations inherent in so-called “short-term missions,” whether manifested in our basic vocabulary, paternalistic attitudes, or reactionary service.

As films like Poverty, Inc. and the PovertyCure series demonstrate, our cultural priorities and preferred solutions often distract us from the true identities and creative capacities of our neighbors. Paired with a passion to “do good,” and standing atop an abundance of resources, it’s easy to forget and neglect the importance of real relationship, holistic service, and long-term discipleship.

For missionary Nik Ripken, those missing pieces were made clear through a range of interviews with persecuted Christians in over 45 countries, whose opinions about what makes a “good” Western missionary challenged his own approach and priorities.

In a stirring set of reflections, Ripken describes this shift in his thinking. Serving in an unnamed Islamic country, Ripken was interviewing a group of persecuted Christians about their trials and struggles with their families, communities, and government. They were remarkably open and vulnerable in their answers until he changed the topic to Western missionaries.

“What do we do well?” he asked. “What things do we not do well? What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we pick up? What should we lay down? What makes a good missionary?” (more…)