Archives for category: Poverty

NPR interviewed Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond about his new book, Poverty, by America. Desmond says that we can afford to eliminate poverty, if we want to. Income inequality is a driving force behind disinvestment in public services, he says.

Over 11% of the U.S. population — about one in nine people — lived below the federal poverty line in 2021. But Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond says neither that statistic, nor the federal poverty line itself, encapsulate the full picture of economic insecurity in America.

“There’s plenty of poverty above the poverty line as a lived experience,” Desmond says. “About one in three Americans live in a household that’s making $55,000 or less, and many of those folks aren’t officially considered poor. But what else do you call trying to raise three kids in Portland on $55,000?”

Growing up in a small town in Arizona, Desmond learned firsthand how economic insecurity could impact a family’s stress level. He remembers the gas being shut off and his family home being foreclosed on. Those hardships would later drive his research — specifically the question of how so much poverty could exist within a country as wealthy as the U.S….

His new book, Poverty, by America, studies various factors that contribute to economic inequality in the U.S., including housing segregation, predatory lending, the decline of unions and tax policies that favor the wealthy. Desmond says that affluent Americans, including many with progressive political views, benefit from corporate and government policies that keep people poor.

“Most government aid goes to families that need it the least,” Desmond says. “If you add up the amount that the government is dedicating to tax breaks — mortgage interest deduction, wealth transfer tax breaks, tax breaks we get on our retirement accounts, our health insurance, our college savings accounts — you learn that we are doing so much more to subsidize affluence than to alleviate poverty.”

Desmond says that the growing affluence of those at the top drives it’s unwillingness to invest in public services:

If you are a family of means, you have the incentive to rely less and less on the public sector. So we used to want to be free of bosses, but now we want to be free of bus drivers. We don’t want to take the bus. We don’t want to often enroll our kids in the public school system. We don’t need to play in the public park or swim in the public pool. We have our own clubs, our own schools. We have our own cars. And as we withdraw into the private opulence, we have less and less incentive to invest in public services…

This one statistic that I calculated just blew me away. So a recent study was published and it showed that if the top 1% of Americans just paid the taxes they owed, not paid more taxes, … we as a nation could raise an additional $175 billion every year. That is just about enough to pull everyone out of poverty, every parent, every child, every grandparent. So we clearly have the resources to do this. It is not hard.

Matthew Desmond is a MacArthur Fellow and a principal investigator of the Eviction Lab, a research project focusing on poverty, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality and ethnography. (Barron Bixler/Penguin Random House)

This is a rough estimate. I arrive at this number by looking at everyone under the poverty line, calculating the average it would take to just bring them over the poverty line and adding that all up. It’s pretty equivalent to what we could earn by just enforcing fair taxes at the very top of the market. What else could we do with $175 billion? We could more than double our investment in affordable housing. We could reestablish the extended child tax credit that we rolled out during COVID. … [That]was basically a check for middle and low-income families with kids. That’s all it was. And that simple intervention cut child poverty almost in half in six months. We could bring that back again with $175 billion and still have money left over.

Moriah Balongit of The Washington Post wrote an excellent and deeply sad story about a poor rural district in Mississippi that can’t find permanent teachers for essential subjects. The district is 98% black. It has a young and energetic principal. But it doesn’t have enough teachers. This dire situation—and the dramatic reduction of students in teacher-preparation programs can be traced in large part to the sustained attack on teachers conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and rightwing think tanks.

Starting in 2010 with the propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” the American public was bombarded by negative screeds about teachers, blaming them for low test scores and for the ills of society. The Billionaire Boys and Girls club heaped scorn on public schools and their teachers. They promoted bogus research claiming that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Instead of clamoring for higher teacher pay and more resources for the neediest schools, they poured millions into Teach for America, which sent a few thousand inexperienced, ill-trained, idealistic college graduates into needy districts, committed to stay for only two years. They poured even more millions into charter schools, as did the U.S. Department of Education.

Now districts like the one described in this article suffer the consequences of the Billionaires’ war on teachers. Why weren’t the super-rich fighting for the kids in districts like Rosedale instead of promoting diversions?

The article has many helpful links. They didn’t transfer over when I copied it. I hope you can open it.

These young people are being cheated out of a good education. They don’t need charter schools, vouchers or TFA. They need the money to hire and retain well-prepared, experienced teachers.

ROSEDALE, Miss. — It’s near the end of the day at West Bolivar High School, and Jordan Mosley is stuck. The 15-year-old sophomore stares at her laptop and restarts the video.

Her teacher that day is a stranger — a nameless long-haired man on the screen. He explains two-column geometry proofs and how students could use the software to complete them. “Prove if the length of AB is equal to the length of EF,” the man says.

But there is no one to ask for help in this classroom, where students stare sleepily at laptops amid the din of a portable air conditioner. There is only a teacher’s assistant who can print out additional worksheets if they run into trouble. So Jordan, a top student, decides to wait until she can see Ms. Butler, the high school’s popular math teacher — and its only one.

The virtual session is not a concession to pandemic learning or a stopgap for a teacher who is sick. It is how sophomores are expected to learn geometry this year after the district could not find a teacher. In the Mississippi Delta, where schools have historically been shortchanged, teaching candidates — especially those who know math — are hard to come by.

The nature and the severity of the teacher crisis differ radically from state to state, district to district and even school to school. Some districts have only recently started experiencing teacher shortages, but in many Southern states, the problem has been long-standing and only gotten worse. It doesn’t help either that the state has shortchanged districts like West Bolivar Consolidated by millions of dollars, failing to fund a program that would send more money to poor districts.

Researchers have found that schools that serve high percentages of minority students and students in poverty have more difficulty finding and retaining qualified educators than Whiter, more affluent schools. The West Bolivar Consolidated School District is 98 percent Black, and 100 percent of children qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Across the country, states and school districts desperate for candidates have resorted to shortening school weeks to make the job more appealing, eliminating requirements and, in nearby Oklahoma, permitting school districts to hire people without any college education.
In the West Bolivar Consolidated School District, keeping schools staffed is a high-wire balancing act that relies on long-term substitutes, virtual classes and hiring educators to teach subjects they have no training in. Throughout the fall, Superintendent Will Smith said, the district had bent so many rules to hire educators that it risked losing accreditation.

“It’s not fair,” he said, “but what else do we have?…”

Like a lot of communities in the region, the county is rich in culture, history and community pride but economically poor, having lost population when manufacturing jobs left and agriculture became more automated. Those who remain send their children to deteriorating schools that their districts struggle to run because of a dwindling tax base and a state legislature reluctant to fund schools at the per-student rate the law is supposed to guarantee.

It’s how three small-town school districts with rival sports teams merged to become one — West Bolivar Consolidated — in 2014, at the behest of state lawmakers.

When public schools were compelled to integrate here, White students moved to private schools that came to be known as segregation academies — institutions that still stand today and serve a largely White student body. The desegregation fight in the county is hardly history: In 2016, a federal judge ordered two high schools in Cleveland, the county’s largest city, to consolidate into one to better integrate the student body. But at the schools that make up the West Bolivar district, there is nothing to integrate. White students left in the 1970s after courts told schools to open their doors to children of any race.

What’s happening in West Bolivar is common across Mississippi. Researchers trying to understand the teacher shortage could find sufficient data for only 37 states, and among those, Mississippi’s was the worst. For every 10,000 students there, 69 teacher positions are unfilled or filled by someone without traditional credentials. That’s 159 times the ratio in Missouri, according to their working paper, published by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

It has been difficult to attract teachers to the district, and many of the people who work at the school grew up in the region. Smith, the enthusiastic 36-year-old who took the reins of the district last June, hopes to create an energy and a buzz that will draw people to this part of the state.

One tactic he used to excite people in his previous job, as principal of Utica Elementary Middle School near Jackson, made him a local celebrity: His school’s Facebook page featured videos of him surprising teachers with monthly awards. That reputation followed him to West Bolivar, and teachers in neighboring districts, according to Smith, tried to get out of their contracts to go work for him. He recruited his assistant superintendent from another Delta school system. He also had his own tricks for recruiting, starting his searches in January and locking staff down by February.
Still, six weeks into the school year, he had several teacher vacancies. One of the jobs he was hiring for? Middle-school math teacher.

On a day in late September, seventh-graders got to their seats in a math classroom overseen for the day by a teacher’s assistant at West Bolivar High, where a motivational poster declared: “I can keep going when things are tough.”

Their teacher, 42-year-old Camellia Jenkins, was 18 miles away in a classroom full of seventh-graders at the McEvans School in Shaw, Miss. Jenkins toggled back and forth, teaching two different lessons simultaneously because the McEvans students were behind in the curriculum. Piped into the classroom on laptop speakers, she was difficult to hear over the rumble of the air conditioning.

“The assignment you all are doing at West Bolivar, how are you all doing?” Jenkins asked. Later in the lesson, she asked: “What happens to the 3x now?”
“I have no clue,” a student in the back muttered.
These students, in a sense, are lucky. Two other educators — one who teaches Spanish, and another who teaches high school science — also split their time between the two campuses. But in September there were no teacher assistants available to set up a virtual class and supervise students. So when their teachers were not in the building, students worked on assignments independently. (The district has since lined up teaching assistants, so students learn from their teachers over Zoom half the time.)

Shana Bolden, the high school science teacher, said she worries about the students who are left to teach themselves. Those who are not reading on grade level, for example, will struggle to understand a science lesson.

And a lack of funding means neither school has a science lab, so students who want to study science in college may be woefully underprepared. Bolden said she doesn’t think her brightest students are being sufficiently challenged.

Quintarion Hays, 15, is one of them. With his straight A’s, he aspires to work in cybersecurity or computer engineering — and to be the first in his family to finish college. This year, though, only half of his six classes have full-time teachers. He’s in Spanish and chemistry, where he sees teachers only every other day. Then there’s the geometry class, with no teacher.

For his part, Hays said he actually likes the schedule. It allows him a little bit of a break when his teachers travel to other campuses. And he does not struggle to keep up with the work.
“I’m self-motivated,” Hays said. “I’ve had a 4.0 so far, my whole high school career.”

At the recent homecoming parade, Etoshia Robinson, 28, and her 14-year-old daughter, Sariyah Drake, watched as the queen, wearing a six-inch-high tiara, rode by wearing a dress with blinding red sequins. Robinson graduated from Shaw High School, which has since been shuttered, and remembers having veteran teachers who had been in the district so long that they taught multiple generations of students.

Her daughter’s experience has been different. Just this year, Sariyah enrolled in a band class and had hoped to play trumpet, but the teacher was transferred to West Bolivar High after three days of school.

“The kids were looking forward,” Robinson said. “They hadn’t had a band teacher in years. They were excited.”

You don’t need a teaching credential to know children learn better from an in-person instructor than a computer program. Nafatic Butler, West Bolivar High’s beloved math teacher, spelled out some of the reasons: A computer program is a one-size-fits-all approach, not taking into account that some students may learn differently from others. A computer program can’t detect when a student is struggling because they need to review concepts they learned earlier.

And a computer program cannot see when a student is down, stressed or in need of something other than help with math. A computer program cannot be a confidante or a role model or a mentor.

“If they have [math] questions, I’m there,” Butler said. “If they need me, I’m there. If they need to talk, I’m there.”

Next year, though, Butler won’t be there. She’s planning to move to Texas, where she anticipates she won’t have any trouble getting a job — or a raise.

The importance of teachers cannot be underestimated. Research suggests that they matter more to a child’s learning than any other school-based factor, including the condition of the school building or the principal. Teachers not only affect academic achievement, they can also influence the likelihood a child will graduate from high school and how much they’ll learn over the course of their lives, researchers found. For children whose teachers are underqualified, inexperienced or nonexistent, the stakes are high.

West Bolivar Consolidated has been plagued by high turnover, and many of the teachers it hires are new and lack the training for the classes they’re supposed to teach. Measured on state assessments against other school districts with more resources and fewer vacancies, it came out near the bottom, receiving a D for its dismal test scores.

Mississippi’s teacher shortage is long-standing, dating back to at least 1998, when state legislators passed a law that offered college scholarships for teachers-in-training in exchange for a commitment to teach in a community with a shortage. It has tried a number of initiatives to recruit teachers, including residencies where the state pays the tuition of a prospective teacher and a stipend for them to do long-term student teaching.

Still, it has proved difficult to keep teachers in Mississippi because the pay has been historically low compared with that of other states. Two years ago, Mississippi came in dead last in average teacher pay, according to a National Education Association report, at a little less than $47,000 a year.

Last year, for the first time, the state’s Department of Education surveyed districts to learn just how many teachers were needed. It found that schools had more than 3,000 positions that were either vacant or filled by uncertified instructors. Not long after, the state gave teachers a historic pay increase, boosting salaries by an average of $5,140.

Nationally, experts trace the current teacher shortage to the 2008 Great Recession, when the nation’s public education system lost more than 120,000 teachers. When the economy rebounded and schools started hiring again, they found that many of those who had left were reluctant to return. There have been other factors, too: The number of people entering teacher training programs dropped by about one-third between 2008 and 2019.

One Monday in mid-September, Smith got an email that a U.S. Postal Service employee had applied through the school’s website. The woman had not taught on her own before, but she had a combination of qualities that no one else did: credentials to teach math, and a desire to work in this out-of-the-way school district.

“When you get that email, you’re jumping,” Smith said. “You have to quickly call the candidate and have a talk before they get hired by somebody else.”

He offered her a job over the phone, pending approval of the school board. Then he called an in-person emergency board meeting, and members quickly signed off. Within a week, the woman was in front of students at West Bolivar Middle.

By late December, though, the picture still looked bleak. A woman who had come back part time to teach art at McEvans had decided not to return for the second semester. Smith’s plan to move a long-term substitute to the same school to restore the music class was also derailed when the man called to say he planned to stop subbing at the end of the semester. And Smith had given up on trying to find teachers for Spanish, chemistry or geometry for the current school year.

Still, there was little he could do for students in classes now. It was hardly fair for the students, who would face state exams just like their peers in districts that had in-person teachers five days a week, instead of a patchwork of instructors who often left midyear, he said.

A month later, the district’s luck shifted: He hired five teachers — two for high school science, and three for elementary school — for the upcoming school year.

“At the end of the day, you’re still expected to produce the results,” Smith said. “None of the excuses are going to matter.”

I just read Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech out loud.

It was an enthralling experience. Uplifting, inspiring, and a bit depresssing to realize what has not happened, the persistence of racism and poverty and inequality, the scoundrels who distort his message and try to prevent the honest teaching of our history. The racist legislators who say that teaching honest history is a “divisive concept” that will make white children uncomfortable. That assumes they will identify with the oppressors. That assumes that the truth will make them woke. I assume they willl identify with the oppressed and join with those who want change.

Read it. Out loud.

Rachel M. Cohen has a very informative article at VOX about the last-ditch effort during the lame-duck session of Congress to bring back the Child Tax Credit, which was amazingly effective at reducing child poverty during its brief existence. I have to admit that I didn’t really understand the program until I read her article. I suggest that you read it also. I didn’t realize that the controversial expansion included non-working families, where poverty is most dire. Currently, only working families can claim the credit. She argues that Democrats are eager to reach a deal because they will lose their slender majority at the beginning of the year, and some Republicans might be open to a compromise because they are chastened by their poor performance in the last election.

She begins:

In 2021, an expansion of the child tax credit delivered hundreds of dollars monthly to some 35 million parents across the United States, helping them afford gas, food, and school expenses, and lifting almost 3 million children out of poverty. But last December, Democrats narrowly failed to approve an extension of the expanded credit, and it expired. 

Now, with only a few weeks remaining before a new Congress takes office, advocates for the child tax credit are trying again to get an expansion included in any end-of-year tax package.

It’s a tall order, especially because Democrats would need at least 10 Senate Republicans to agree to pass any broad deal; last year, even a simple Democratic majority proved out of reach. But Democrats believe the political dynamics have since changed in their favor, and so have their policy demands, making a compromise potentially easier for Republican moderates to stomach. 

The sticking point since the expanded credit expired has been Republicans and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s resistance to the idea that a more generous child tax credit should go to families where no parents are working. 2021 marked the only time in its quarter-century history that the CTC had no parental work requirement, and it was that feature, experts agree, that drove the policy’s substantial reduction in child poverty: a stunning 46 percent drop in one year, according to US Census data. Until the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August, Democrats and their allies were unwilling to entertain any child tax credit expansion that maintained a connection to work. 

Now, though, Democrats are signaling they’d embrace a more modest expansion — ideally one that keeps the credit fully available for all families, but at least makes it easier for parents with little to no earnings to access, even if at a reduced rate. Whether lawmakers can increase the amount of funding available for parents of infants and toddlers, as opposed to all kids under 18, is another option on the table.

The biggest negotiating card Democrats have right now is certain expiring business tax breaks. Since 1974, companies have been allowed to deduct research and development (R&D) spending the same year they make the investments, but as a budget gimmick included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, businesses, as of 2022, now must expense those costs over five or 15 years instead. Restoring the right to annually deduct R&D spending is a top legislative priority of the business community.

Advocates are hoping to pair any restoration of R&D tax breaks with an extension of the child tax credit. In November, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate finance committee, declared his intent to push for both together while Democrats still control both chambers of Congress. 

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair of the Senate banking committee, has stated that expanding the CTC is his top priority. “I’ll put it this way, no more tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy unless the child tax credit’s with it. I’ll lay down in front of a bulldozer on that one,” he said in September.

Additional aid for Ukraine, public health, and disaster relief are the Biden administration’s top priorities for any end-of-year deal, but in late November, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said that if corporate tax breaks are included in a final deal, tax cuts “for working families” should be as well. 

The negotiations ultimately may turn on just how much corporate lobbying pressure Republican lawmakers face. Prior to the midterms, Republicans anticipated much bigger electoral gains, making compromise with Democrats ahead of the new Congress seem less urgent. But now, with Democrats set to retain Senate control and Republican House margins tighter than expected, the expectation that Republicans would even be able to reach a deal on the business tax breaks next year if they wanted to looks dicey.

This reality, in fact, partly explains why Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced last week that he’d like to negotiate an omnibus tax package in December, rather than a temporary spending deal that prevents a government shutdown but kicks the can on serious legislative decisions. Pushing the tax negotiations to 2023 would mean incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, rather than current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would be tasked with getting an acceptable deal through his chamber. “Nobody trusts McCarthy to pass anything (not even McCarthy),” quipped Politico in late November.

Though some advocates are still publicly calling for the expanded CTC of 2021, most acknowledge they’d accept more modest improvements

The 2021 expansion of the child tax credit, passed as part of President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief program, sent thousands of dollars to parents across the US. It made non-working and poor families fully eligible for the credit’s full value and increased the value of the subsidy itself — up to $3,600 per child.

Democrats had been optimistic that if they could just seed the generous program through the American Rescue Plan, then they would amass the kind of political support that makes a popular subsidy hard to repeal. But they failed, and the CTC is resultantly back to its pre-Covid form, with a maximum of $2,000 per child for working families only — and will remain there unless lawmakers change it.

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

One of the best programs created by the Biden administration was the Child Tax Credit. It cut child poverty in half. But Republicans, with the crucial vote of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, killed the program at the first opportunity.

The New York Times reviews the effects of the program and predicts that Democrats will seek to revive it. It’s hard to imagine a future for the Child Tax Credit so long as Republicans control the House of Representatives. The House controls appropriations. I’m afraid I don’t understand a political party whose ideology is to oppose any program other than tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals. Why fight a program that gives millions of children a better life? I don’t get it.

Jason DeParle wrote:

A pandemic-era program that sent monthly checks of up to $300 per child to most families drove down poverty rates. Amid new research about its merits, some Democrats are vowing to bring it back.

WASHINGTON — When the history of American hardship is written in some distant decade, two recent events may capture the whipsaw forces of the age.

Child poverty fell to a record low. And the program that did the most to reduce it vanished.

The story of that temporary program — technically, a tax-credit expansion but more plainly a series of monthly checks to most families with children — was extraordinary in every way. A guaranteed income in a country long resistant to one, the expanded child tax credit emerged from obscurity to win support from most of the Democratic Party, aided millions of low- and middle-income families during the pandemic and helped cut child poverty nearly in half.

Then it died, as President Biden’s efforts to preserve it drew unified Republican opposition and the defection of a crucial Senate Democrat. Critics called the monthly payments of up to $300 per child an expensive welfare scheme that would deter parents from working by providing cash aid regardless of whether they had jobs.

The checks have ended, but the battle has not. Supporters say new evidence shows the payments lowered hardship and nurtured children without reducing parental employment. Some Democrats hope to revive payments to small groups of parents as part of a year-end tax deal, and despite Republicans taking control of the House in January, restoring the full program remains a long-term Democratic goal.

“It was soul crushing not to get it, but the commitment to the tax credit remains — absolutely,” said Maria Cancian, a former Obama administration official who is dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. “We’ve shown that we can get money in the hands of parents and really make a difference.”

Skeptics argue the payments’ six-month run was too brief to test whether the guaranteed cash weakened incentives to work, and they find the short-term benefits less impressive than supporters say.

“There was a meaningful reduction in material hardship, but the reduction has been exaggerated,” said Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute. “It’s much smaller than you would expect when hearing the phrase, ‘Cut child poverty in half.’”

Each side might find support in the experience of Thomas Horton and his wife, Pamela Mudge, who are raising three children in Pitcairn, Pa., outside Pittsburgh.

Mr. Horton, 38, and a teenage son receive disability benefits, which became the family’s main support after Ms. Mudge lost work at the start of the pandemic. Tax credit payments of $750 a month raised their cash income by nearly 50 percent and lifted them above the poverty line.

While most of the aid went to bills, Mr. Horton cited two breaks from frugal norms that lent the children a boost. One was a trip to Walmart, to quiet their classmates’ taunts over their thrift-shop clothes. Another was the family’s first vacation — a single night in a state park, where they pitched a borrowed tent and made s’mores. “I saw a happiness in my wife and kids I hadn’t seen in a long time,” he said. “I felt like father of the year.”

At the same time, Mr. Horton acknowledged the payments’ end hastened his wife’s return to work — a point the program’s detractors would emphasize — and that her earnings roughly replaced the lost aid. (She works part-time so she can assist with his care for a bone disease that has required several back operations.) Mr. Horton said she would have returned to work anyway and, had the payments continued as supporters hoped, the children would be better off.

“We’re back to the everyday struggle,” he said.

Many countries offer cash aid to subsidize child-rearing costs. But historically the idea gained little traction in the United States, where faith in upward mobility held greater sway and racial divisions slowed the growth of the welfare state. As recently as the 1990s, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, eliminated guarantees of cash aid to poor families.

In part the growing interest in family aid is rooted in concerns about inequality. It also reflects science that showed the importance of the formative years and research (summarized in an influential 2019 report) that found government aid helps children advance.

An unlikely force accelerated the drive: a Republican tax cut. A 2017 law elevated the child tax credit by doubling its value and extending it to high-income families while keeping earnings requirements that denied the poorest third of children the full benefit.

Republicans argued that tax credits logically favor taxpayers, but Democrats saw inequity in a children’s policy that excluded children who most needed help. They sought to subsidize all poor and middle-class families, regardless of parental employment, and increase the benefit.

The pandemic offered the chance. The aid Mr. Biden won last year included six monthly payments (of $250 a child or $300 for those under 6) and a lump-sum payment for an additional six months that was paid this spring. Supporters had hoped that the program, kept temporary to limit costs, would prove too popular to lapse.

The one-year expansion of the credit, which cost about $100 billion, cut child poverty by 36 percent, according to census data. The overall decline in child poverty reached 46 percent, a one-year drop without precedent.

Food insecurity among households with children also reached a record low, the Agriculture Department reported. Surveys have consistently found that the children’s payments reduced food hardship, variously defined, in some cases by 25 percent or more.

“That’s a very big impact — very big,” said Elaine Waxman, a researcher at the Urban Institute. “People clearly used the money to buy food or we wouldn’t be seeing those kinds of numbers.”

The J.P. Morgan Chase Institute found the payments increased bank balances, creating a cushion for emergencies. Researchers at Columbia University found the level of hardship among New Yorkers was the lowest in the five years for which there is data.

“To put it bluntly. the child tax credit was a really good thing,” said Megan A. Curran, an analyst at Columbia’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy who published a review of recent studies. “These are some of the most impressive results we’ve ever seen from a single policy.”

But some hardships seemed largely unaffected. Multiple studies found little or no impact on parents’ ability to pay rent, perhaps because housing payments are large. While supporters hoped the credit would boost educational or enrichment spending, a study that posed the question directly found it had not. And there was little impact on parental depression or stress, perhaps because payments expired too soon to address entrenched problems

The payments’ effect on parents’ decisions to work has drawn extensive interest. One study found the aid coincided with an employment decline of two percentage points, though only among the least-educated parents. But at least six studies found no change in parental employment, though a decline would likely take longer than six months to fully appear…

Scott Winship of the American Enterprise Institute argues that last year’s program has little predictive value because the conditions were so unusual, with short-lived payments, other forms of temporary aid, and a job market skewed by the virus. “Studying a six-month program in the midst of a pandemic just doesn’t give you much information,” he said.

But others say a real-world test that involved more than 60 million children is more rigorous than the small experiments that often shape policies. “It’s worlds ahead of the kind of evidence we usually have,” said H. Luke Shaefer, a researcher at the University of Michigan who found that hardships fell as soon as the payments started and rose as soon as they stopped.

Last year, Mr. Biden’s lengthy attempt to continue the payments failed to persuade Senator Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who criticized the program’s costs and said aid should be limited to parents who work.

Despite bets on its popularity, the program expired with little political backlash, and Democrats, accused of inflationary spending, said little about it in congressional campaigns. The credit reverted to its previous state: a $2,000 annual benefit that includes high-income families but fails to fully reach those in the bottom third

Robert Greenstein of the Brookings Institution, a longtime advocate for safety net programs, urged Congress to reinstate payments to some parents in exchange for preserving a corporate tax break that expires this year. “Its benefits are proven, while the idea that the there might be some small adverse effect down the road is merely speculation,” he said…

Supporters of the credit often lament that the United States has higher child poverty rates than many advanced countries (with poverty defined as half of each nation’s median income). Zachary Parolin, a researcher affiliated with Columbia University, found that the expanded credit raised the American rankto 21st of 53 nations, from 40th — to a place beside Germany, rather than Bulgaria.

He was stunned when the payments ceased. “I had this theory that once the policy is there there’s no way to get rid of it,” he said. “I was wrong — it’s gone.”

Jan Resseger and the Network for Public Education urge you to contact your Senators and members of the House to support reinstatement of the Child Tax Credit. It must happen before Republicans take control of the House. They inexplicably oppose reducing child poverty. Urge Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to support the Child Tax Credit. Find one Republican Senator, perhaps one who is retiring, and urge him or her to support the legislation.

Jan writes:

In case you missed this opportunity: Earlier this week, the Network for Public Education sent out an action alert urging Congress, during this lame-duck session, to take one step that would reduce child poverty by roughly 10 percent and help 1.7 million children.

If you missed the earlier request, please take a moment now to send the Network for Public Education’s letter to your U.S. Senators and your Congressional Representative. Right now members of Congress are negotiating to take the one action researchers say would do the most to ameliorate child poverty in the United States: make the Child Tax Credit fully available to the poorest families with children.

You will remember that Congress significantly reduced child poverty temporarily in 2021 by expanding the Child Tax Credit as part of the American Rescue Plan. But the changes were terminated at the end of 2021.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains: “The current Child Tax Credit has a major design flaw: millions of children are prevented from receiving the full credit because their families’ incomes are too low.” The Child Tax Credit phases in with taxable income. A home health aide making $15,000 annually cannot collect the full $2,000 per child, while married families with children—families whose income is as high as $400,000 annually—can collect the full tax credit per child.

Decades of research show that child poverty is the primary driving force behind educational opportunity gaps. As educators, we know that public schools alone cannot close opportunity gaps.

Please do send the Network for Public Education’s action letter right now. Ask your U.S. Senator and your Congressional Representative to vote, as part of tax policy, to make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable to the poorest families with children. Then share this request with your friends and colleagues.

Here are two resources for more information:

Jan Resseger, outstanding advocate for children and the common good, argues in this post that we DO know how to reduce child poverty and must pursue that goal. I agreee. When I realized the high correlation between poverty and academic failure, I saw that the best way to improve education is to improve the lives of children. I thank Jan for being one of the people who taught me that crucial lesson.

She writes:

This blog has strongly advocated that Congress should enact legislation to make permanent last year’s temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit. New research confirms the urgency of Congressional action on the Child Tax Credit this year.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Census reported* a stunning drop in poverty among U.S. children in 2021, largely thanks to the Biden Administration’s action—temporarily for 2021 alone—to expand the Child Tax Credit and make it fully refundable under the American Rescue (COVID-relief) Act. That expansion of the Child Tax Credit ended in 2022. Now it is apparent that unless Congress acts to restore what was a temporary reform to the Child Tax Credit, millions of American children will fall back into poverty.

The U.S. Census created a new measure of poverty in 2011, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which reflects how government programs like SNAP, school lunch benefits, and refundable tax credits supplement family income and reduce poverty. The Census Bureau’s new report explains: “The SPM (Supplemental Poverty Measure) extends the official poverty measure by accounting for many of the government programs that are designed to assist low-income families but are not included in the official poverty measure. The SPM also includes federal and state taxes and work and medical expenses… Though the SPM does not replace the official poverty measure, it provides a different metric of economic well-being that includes resources from government programs and tax credits to low income families.”

In their September 13 report, using the SPM measure, U.S. Census Bureau researchers documented an extraordinary reduction in child poverty during 2021: “The SPM child poverty rate fell 46 percent in 2021, from 9.7 percent in 2020 to 5.2 percent in 2021, a 4.5 percentage-point decline. This is the lowest SPM child poverty rate on record.” “The decline in the SPM rate for children was largely driven by stimulus payments and the refundable Child Tax Credit, which led to increased resources for families with children.”

To review: In the American Rescue (COVID-relief) Act passed in the spring of 2021, Congress made several significant changes in the Child Tax Credit: raising the maximum Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,600 per child through age 5, and $3,000 for children age 6-17; allowing families to receive a Child Tax Credit for 17-year-olds; sending the payments monthly instead of once a year, and making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable for the year 2021. Making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable was an extremely significant reform. While, since 1997, families with comfortable incomes have qualified for the full Child Tax Credit, until the American Rescue (COVID-relief) Act, families with such small incomes that they pay little income tax received only a partial credit and not the full amount. Families without any income (who do not pay federal income tax) could not qualify at all for the tax credit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained in a November 2021 report: “Prior to the Rescue Plan, 27 million children received less than the full Child Tax Credit or no credit at all because their families’ incomes were too low. That included roughly half of all Black and Latino children and half of children who live in rural communities… This upside-down policy gave less help to the children who needed it most. The American Rescue Plan temporarily fixed this policy by making the tax credit fully refundable for 2021.”

When the new Census data came out on September 13, the President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Sharon Parrott, immediately released a statementinterpreting the significance of the drop in U.S. child poverty: “The data for 2021 show that the nation knows how to reduce poverty, broaden opportunity, and expand coverage. Temporary measures drove progress… The new data show that due chiefly to the Child Tax Credit, child poverty fell sharply in 2021 and reached a record low of 5.2 percent, as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)…. As recently as 2018, 13.7 percent of children were below the SPM poverty line.”

Parrot scrutinizes the meaning of Congress’s temporary action last year to reduce American child poverty: “The Child Tax Credit expansion drove the large reduction in child poverty between 2020 and 2021…. In the absence of the expansion, child poverty would have fallen to 8.1 percent, rather than 5.2 percent, and some 2.1 million more children would have lived in families with incomes below the poverty line. The year-to-year decline in the child poverty rate was the largest on record (4.5 percentage points). Child poverty rates plunged widely across racial and ethnic groups…. For Black non-Latino children, the poverty rate fell to 8.3 percent in 2021 from 17.2percent in 2020…. This is stunning progress—in 2018 nearly 1 in 4 Black children lived in families with incomes below the poverty line. In 2021, fewer than 1 in 10 did… In 2021, poverty among Latino children fell to 8.4 percent and for American Indian and Alaska Native children it fell to 7.4 percent.”

Washington Post columnists, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent believeCongressional action permanently to expand the Child Tax Credit would redefine our society morally: “We can choose to make our economic arrangements fairer. We can make collective decisions that children shouldn’t be disadvantaged at a very young age through no fault of their own. Making the choice to alleviate poverty early in people’s lives… puts children on a path to becoming healthier, happier, more fulfilled, more productive adults.”

Please read the rest of this important post. When I am asked what one thing I would do to improve students’ educational success, I invariably answer: “Reduce child poverty.”

Why don’t we?

Paul Waldman and Greg Sergeant of the Washington Post write about the untimely and unnecessary demise of the most effective anti-poverty program for children. One Democratic Senator, Joseph Manchin, killed it.

“My friends, some years ago, the federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won,” Ronald Reagan declared in his State of the Union address in 1988. He lamented that “government created a poverty trap” that discouraged people from lifting themselves up.
Then as now, it was an idea driven by an ideology that says the government should do as little as possible to help people who are struggling. Then as now, it was refuted by facts.

As a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, we did something extraordinary during the worst parts of the coronavirus pandemic: In the midst of a crisis that affected every part of our society and could have been economically calamitous, we drove poverty down. As economically painful as the crisis was, the aggressive public spending passed across the Trump and Biden presidencies dramatically mitigated the hardship Americans suffered.

Using just-released census figures, the group reports the results of the pandemic stimulus measures in 2021. In particular, the study looked at the expansion of the child tax credit, which was altered to give monthly payments to eligible families, including those with incomes too low to have income tax liability:

The expanded Child Tax Credit alone kept 5.3 million people above the annual poverty line and helped drive a stunning reduction in child poverty to a record low. Poverty overall also reached a record low and the uninsured rate dropped substantially, with Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace coverage reaching or nearing record highs.

The effect on minority groups was particularly dramatic: “In 2018 nearly 1 in 4 Black children lived in families with incomes below the poverty line. In 2021, fewer than 1 in 10 did.”

It’s important to remember that we define “poverty” as a line one can be over or under. The fact that a family has a bit more income than where that line is placed doesn’t mean they don’t struggle to make ends meet.

But government assistance can mean the difference between a family having enough to eat, being able to pay the rent and utilities, or becoming homeless. And it’s clear that antipoverty spending has had a tremendous impact.

This week the New York Times reported comprehensive data showing that over the past three decades, child poverty has declined dramatically, down from 28 percent of American children in 1993 to 11 percent in 2019. Much of the credit goes to the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, which give significant benefits to low-income Americans.

Now, here’s the bad news: Sadly, the expanded CTC expired at the end of 2021. Almost all Democrats in Congress wanted to extend the expansion, but Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) refused; he reportedly told colleagues he worried that parents would use the money to buy drugs. Without that extra income, millions of children fell back into poverty in 2022.

That only reinforces what a success story pandemic relief was — even if some of its effects were temporary.

These data are also important for another reason. They undercut conservative arguments that such government help must be accompanied with work requirements, lest it incentivize recipients to slip into a “hammock” of “dependency,” as one wretched formulation of the idea has it.

“There was a huge decline in child poverty and a very large increase in parents working year round without any work requirements,” Sherman told us. “We did not need to require the parents to work.”
In practice, work requirements often wind up being little more than a weaponization of bureaucracy against poor people, forcing them to spend enormous amounts of time and energy satisfying paperwork requirements, with the threat of their benefits being withdrawn if they make a mistake.
Ultimately, however, the most important lesson might be this: We can choose to make our economic arrangements fairer. We can make collective decisions that children shouldn’t be disadvantaged at a very young age through no fault of their own.

Making the choice to alleviate poverty early in people’s lives, many economists agree, puts children on a path to becoming healthier, happier, more fulfilled, more productive adults. We have perpetually failed to make that choice, but this time, we did make it, and it worked.
“We decided that we could actually try things,” Sherman told us.

Unfortunately, thanks largely to a certain senator from West Virginia, Democratic majorities in Congress were unable to continue the expanded CTC. But the drop in child poverty is a very big story, and if Democrats can somehow hold those majorities, its legacy should ensure that we don’t make that absurd and unnecessary mistake again.

I wonder how Senator Joe Manchin feels, knowing that he is responsible for the demise of a federal program lifted millions of children out of povètt.

Big business has been trying to get rid of unions since the first union was created. Corporations don’t want workers to have collective power. They prefer a workplace where they make all the decisions and don’t have to listen to workers’ voices. The share of unionized workers in the private sector is near an all-time low, but that may change. Recently there have been inklings of a rebirth of unionism. We see it in the growing number of Starbucks and Amazon workers who have voted to unionize. But their numbers remain small. Happily, public opinion is trending in favor of unions.

Someone recently asked me why there was so much hostility to teachers’ unions, and I answered, “Because they are the largest unions.” Teachers’ unions are blamed for whatever critics don’t like in schools, even though they fight for adequate school funding and decent working conditions. Those who have wanted to crush all unions focus their wrath on the NEA and the AFT, while overlooking the police union and the firefighters unions.

My view: if you want to reduce poverty and build a robust middle-class, support unions.

The Economic Policy Institute reports:

It’s been nearly 60 years since approval for unions in the U.S. has been this high.

More than 70% of Americans now approve of labor unions. Those are the findings of a Gallup poll released this morning, and they shouldn’t be surprising.

Why? U.S. workers see unions as critical to fixing our nation’s broken workplace—where most workers have little power or agency at work.

The pandemic revealed much about work in this country. We saw countless examples of workers performing essential jobs—such as health care and food service. They were forced to work without appropriate health and safety gear and certainly without pay commensurate with the critical nature of the work they were doing.

Those conditions, however, pre-dated the pandemic. The pandemic merely exposed these decades old anti-worker dynamics. Clearly, as the new poll and recent data on strikes and union organizing shows, workers today are rejecting these dynamics and awakening to the benefits of unions.

Nonunion workers are forced to take their jobs—accept their employer’s terms as is—or leave them. Unions enable workers to have a voice in those terms and set them through collective bargaining.

We know the powerful impact unions have on workers’ lives, and broader effects on communities and on our democracy.

Here’s a run-down based on the Economic Policy Institute’s extensive research on unions:

Pay and benefits 

  • Unionized workers (workers covered by a union contract) earn on average 10.2% more in wages than nonunionized peers (workers in the same industry and occupation with similar education and experience).
  • Unions don’t just help union workers—they help all of us. When union density is high, nonunion workers benefit, because unions effectively set broader standards—including higher wages.
  • Union workers are more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance. More than 9 in 10 workers covered by a union contract (95%) have access to employer-sponsored health benefits, compared with just 69% of nonunion workers.
  • Union workers have greater access to paid vacation days. 90% of workers covered by a union contract received paid holidays off compared to 78% of nonunion workers.
  • Union workers also have greater access to paid sick days. 9 in 10 workers covered by a union contract (92%) have access to paid sick days, compared with 77% of nonunion workers.

The 17 U.S. states with the highest union densities:

  • Have state minimum wages that are on average 19% higher than the national average and 40% higher than those in low-union-density states.
  • Have median annual incomes $6,000 higher than the national average.
  • Have higher-than-average unemployment insurance recipiency rates (that is, a higher share of those who are unemployed actually receive unemployment insurance).

Equity and Equality

  • Black and Hispanic workers get a larger boost from unionization. Black workers represented by a union are paid 13.1% more than their nonunionized peers. Hispanic workers represented by unions are paid 18.8% more than their nonunionized peers.
  • Unions help raise women’s pay. Hourly wages for women represented by a union are 4.7% higher on average than for nonunionized women with comparable characteristics.
  • Research shows that deunionization accounts for a sizable share of the growth in inequality between typical (median) workers and workers at the high end of the wage distribution in recent decades—on the order of 13–20% for women and 33–37% for men.


  • Significantly fewer restrictive voting laws have been passed in the 17 highest-union-density states than in the middle 17 states (including D.C.) and the 17 lowest-union-density states.
  • Over 70% of low-union-density states passed at least one voter suppression law between 2011 and 2019.

The growing approval of unions is playing out on the ground with more workers seeking to exercise their collective bargaining rights.

Data from the National Labor Relations Board recently analyzed by Bloomberg Law show the exponential increase in election petitions being filed. While the Gallup poll states that most nonunion workers do not respond that they want to join a union, clearly workers are petitioning for union election at elevated rates.

And workers have increasingly felt empowered to fight for what they want.

We were already seeing signs of workers being willing to strike to demand better wages and working conditions. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an upsurge in major strike activity in 2018 and 2019, marking a 35-year high.

We are experiencing a labor enlightenment of sorts in this country, one in which workers are fed up with an economy and workplace that does not work for them. With approval for unions at the highest since 1965, there is a growing realization that unions can potentially make both work better for all.

The New York Times Magazine recently published a startling article about Alabama’s tax system is designed to impoverish the poor and enrich the rich. Written by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, the article documents why Alabama remains a poor state with a high rate of poverty and underfunded public services. If you want to read a road map to how to institutionalize extreme poverty, racism, and underdevelopment, read “Alabama Takes from the Poor and Gives to the Rich.”

The author explains that the state constitution was written in 1904 by a convention controlled by rich landowners. It capped property taxes at a low rate, which meant that any public services had to be paid for by other taxes, fines, and fees. Fines and fees are assessed for almost every interaction with government.

He writes:

In states like Alabama, almost every interaction a person has with the criminal justice system comes with a financial cost. If you’re assigned to a pretrial program to reduce your sentence, each class attended incurs a fee. If you’re on probation, you’ll pay a fee to take your mandatory urine test. If you appear in drug court, you will face more fees, sometimes dozens of times a year. Often, you don’t even have to break the law; you’ll pay fees to pull a public record or apply for a permit. For poor people, this system is a trap, sucking them into a cycle of sometimes unpayable debt that constrains their lives and almost guarantees financial hardship.

While almost every state in the country, both red and blue, levies fines and fees that fall disproportionately on the bottom rung of the income ladder, the situation in Alabama is far more dramatic, thanks to the peculiarities of its Constitution. Over a century ago, wealthy landowners and businessmen rewrote the Constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, today, Alabama has one of the cruelest tax systems in the country.

Taxes on most property, for example, are exceptionally low. In 2019, property taxes accounted for just 7 percent of state and local revenue, the lowest among the states. (Even Mississippi, which also has low property taxes, got roughly 12 percent from property taxes. New Jersey, by contrast, got 29 percent.) Strapped for cash, all levels of government look for money anywhere they can get it. And often, that means creating revenue from fines and fees. A 2016 studyshowed that the median assessment for a felony in Alabama doubled between 1995 and 2005, to $2,000.

How did this unjust system take root?

In 1874, less than a decade into Reconstruction, the Democratic Party, representing the landowning, formerly slave-owning class, took over the state government in a rigged election and quickly passed a new Constitution that mandated taxes on property would remain permanently low.

In the next couple of decades, as cotton prices crashed, poor sharecroppers, both white and Black, banded together in a populist movement to unseat the elites who controlled the state. In response, in another set of contested elections, the elites called another constitutional convention to further consolidate their power over the state. “What is it that we want to do?” the convention president, John B. Knox, asked. “Establish white supremacy in this state.” But this time, he said, they wanted to “establish it by law — not by force or fraud.”

People like Knox weren’t just racist; they were virulently classist, too, and hoped to exclude all poor people from the political process. The result of the 1901 Constitution was the mass disenfranchisement and subjugation of poor people — white and Black. The Constitution established the basis for a literacy test, a poll tax and stringent residency requirements. By 1943, according to the Alabama Policy Institute, an estimated 520,000 Black people and 600,000 white people had been disqualified from voting by different aspects of the 1901 Constitution. “In most counties more whites were disenfranchised than registered,” the historian Wayne Flynt writes in his authoritative book “Alabama in the Twentieth Century,” “limiting the vote to a select elite.”

This system of minority rule starved public administration in the name of small government. The result was a “government of, by and for special interests,” writes Mr. Flynt. “The citizens of Alabama did not control their government. Trial lawyers, the Business Council of Alabama, ALFA, A.E.A. and their cohorts did.” And this government went about protecting the property owned by some of the wealthiest families and businesses in the state from any meaningful taxation. In 1920, property taxes accounted for 63 percent of state revenue, but by 1978, it was down to a measly 3.6 percent. In 1992, it was below 2 percent, he writes.

Alabama is an “internal colony,” controlled by out-of-state corporations and an elite, with no interest in change, progress, equality, or justice.

Sounds un-American to me.