New Web site: Voices of Poverty

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide a voice for America’s invisible poor. By sharing their stories, we hope to shed light on the men, women, and children of America’s poverty. Our intent is to make complicated stories too often reduced to two-dimensional stereotypes. And, in exploring why and how people fall into, or remain mired in, poverty—using issues like housing, employment, wages, healthcare access, and education resources as lenses on their conditions—we hope to point the way to possible solutions.

Interviewees, both those in poverty and those who have spent careers working with and around poverty, talk about innovative job training programs; non-predatory credit access; creative ways of keeping underwater homeowners in their homes; progressive tax structures and credits; strategies for improving schools and schooling in low-income communities; and suggestions for refining state and federal assistance programs. Cumulatively, these suggestions sketch the outlines of what a twenty first century war on poverty would look like were political leaders to start treating the crisis with the urgency that it so clearly merits.

Pepsi Bias Settlement Awards $3.13 million to Black Job Applicants

Pepsi Beverages has agreed to pay $3.13 million to African-American job applicants and to provide them job training after an investigation proved that Pepsi refused to hire blacks who had not been convicted of a crime, if the company's criminal background checks showed the applicant had been arrested. [Read more]


Survey paints portrait of black women in America

In a new nationwide survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a complex portrait emerges of black women who feel confident but vulnerable, who have high self-esteem and see physical beauty as important, who find career success more vital to them than marriage. The survey, which includes interviews with more than 800 black women, represents the most extensive exploration of the lives and views of African American women in decades. [Read more]

Blacks Face Bias in Bankruptcy

Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to wind up in the more onerous and costly form of consumer bankruptcy as they try to dig out from their debts, a new study has found. [Read more]


A good credit score did not protect Latino and black borrowers

From 2004 to 2008, only 6.2 percent of white borrowers with credit scores of 660 and above ended up with higher-rate mortgages. Latinos and blacks with good credit scores, however, were three times as likely to end up with higher-rate mortgages. [Read more]


The Gingrich Nonsense

Newt Gingrich has been using the fast exchanges of the Republican presidential debates to ignore facts, misdiagnose economic problems and then present wrongheaded solutions. The key fact that he is ignoring is the Great Recession—the greatest economic downturn the country has seen since the depression of the 1930s. It is amazing that anyone could miss this fact, but, apparently, Gingrich has.

Once we acknowledge the existence of the Great Recession, Gingrich’s ideas stop making sense. His statement that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history” is ludicrous. The recession began in Dec. 2007; President Obama took office in Jan. 2009, more than a year later. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) exists to reduce hunger in America. During this period of extreme economic hardship when the rate of hunger in America is high, our leaders should want the needy to turn to SNAP. Would a President Gingrich eliminate SNAP or prevent the number of SNAP recipients from rising during a recession? [Read more]

Few Cities Have Regained Jobs They Lost

Less than a tenth of the nation’s metropolitan areas have regained the jobs they lost in the economic downturn, according to a report being released Wednesday by the nation’s mayors as they gather in Washington to express their exasperation that the federal government seems more intent on cutting aid to cities than on sending more. [Read more]


African-American Pilot Will Head Region for United Airlines

United Airlines, the world's largest airline, has named an African-American chief pilot of one its five U.S. regions, a move that signals the carrier continues to open up opportunities for minorities and women.

Captain James Simons, Jr., a United Airlines pilot for 22 years, will manage 1,450 pilots for the Chicago-based airline's Northeast Region, which is headquartered at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va. [Read more]


Webinar: Why Communities of Color Should Care about Social Security Reform

Social Security reform is not solely a critical issue for seniors, the disabled, and the dependent survivors of workers who die young – each community of color has a distinct stake in its outcome.  Please join us for a dynamic, interactive dialogue discussing:

-How Social Security reform uniquely affects African Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans;
-How Social Security reform uniquely affects men, women, and children of color;
-The current political climate, including why conservatives perpetuate the myth that Social Security is bankrupt; and,
-Recommendations for strengthening Social Security in a targeted, equitable way. [Register here]


Never-Ending Punishment

We propose that the “forever rules” be replaced by rules that provide for the expiration of a criminal record. We believe it is unreasonable for someone to be hounded by a single arrest or conviction that happened more than 20 years earlier — and for many kinds of crimes, the records should be sealed even sooner. The state, as well as private employers, should face a heavy burden to demonstrate the need for any rule that imposes consequences on someone who has remained crime-free decades after a single offense. Yes, there are legitimate exceptions for high-security positions in law enforcement and national security — and there can be exemptions in particular cases; banks cannot afford to hire someone convicted of financial fraud. [Read more]


More Evidence of a Racially Discriminatory Death Penalty

Rather than punish the worst criminals, the Connecticut system, Professor Donohue found, operates with “arbitrariness and discrimination.” The racial effect is very evident (minority defendants with white victims were far more likely to be sentenced to death than others), as is geographic disparity. In the city of Waterbury, a death-eligible killer was at least seven times as likely to be sentenced to death as in the rest of the state. [Read more]

Bad Behavior behind Bad Mortgages?

At a prominent intersection near the border of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, his smiling face looked down from a large billboard that promoted his real estate services. Many residents responded, taking out high-risk mortgages that they were told they could readily afford.
In July, it all came crashing down. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Mr. Ahmad, charging him with masterminding a $50 million mortgage fraud that seemed to exemplify a nationwide phenomenon of celebrated immigrant brokers who were accused of preying on their own. [Read more]


Consumers need a strong Financial Protection Bureau

It is shocking that in the wake of a deep economic crisis brought on by irresponsible financial practices, Congress would stymie the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by not approving a director. President Obama was right to insist that the American public be protected by making a recess appointment of Richard Cordray. Cordray has excellent credentials. [Read more]


Time to End No Child Left Behind

[by Diane Ravitch]
. . .

In some states, like Michigan, most of the charters are for-profit, with big dividends to the investors; their profits come right out of the public school budget and into the pockets of shareholders. In some states, like Ohio, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, virtual charter schools are making millions of dollars for their owners, while children sit home alone in front of a computer. These cyber charters get full state tuition, but they have no buildings, no playgrounds, no library, no custodian, no nurse, and few teachers. They often have one teacher to monitor 100 screens.
For investors, it’s a great business, but the educational results are awful. In Colorado, for example, only 12% graduate from the Virtual Academy, compared to a statewide graduation rate of 78%.
We have had a full decade of No Child Left Behind, and we now know that the law has been a disaster.
. . .
In September, I visited Finland and I want to share with you what this tiny nation has accomplished. It regularly scores at the top of international tests in reading, mathematics, and science. It has the least variance from school to school, meaning that almost every school is a good school.Students in Finland never take a standardized test until they complete high school. Teachers in Finland are required to have a master’s degree. Teaching is a highly respected profession. Parents trust teachers. Teachers have autonomy to exercise professionalism.
Every child has regular medical checkups and healthcare, at no cost. Schools have health clinics. Whereas more than 20% of our children live in poverty, less than 4% of Finnish children do. Higher education is tuition-free.
Finland has no charter schools, no vouchers, no merit pay, no standardized testing. Instead, every teacher is trained to take care of the needs of individual children. If children are having learning problems, there are specialists and social workers in every school to take care of them early and provide whatever assistance is needed. Nearly half of all Finnish students get extra attention and services in the early years of schooling. Finland has no tracking. All children get the education and support they need to succeed in school. Finland does not have a longer school day or a longer school year. Finnish schools emphasize creativity, ingenuity, problem-solving, the arts, projects, activities, physical education, and risk-taking.
By the way, Finnish teachers and principals belong to the same union. It doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Program seeks to increase breast-feeding among black women

According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black mothers nationwide lag behind other racial and ethnic groups when it comes to breast-feeding. In a recent study, 54 percent of black mothers breast-fed their infants from birth, compared with 74 percent of white mothers and 80 percent of Hispanic mothers. Breast-feeding rates for all groups, including Asian and Native American mothers, drop after six months. But just 27 percent of African American mothers continued to breast-feed, compared with 43 percent of white mothers and 45 percent of Hispanic mothers. [Read more]