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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Category: Environment

Global Food Production

How to feed 3 billion extra people — without trashing the planet, By Ezra Klein, July 18, 2014, Vox: One of the daunting challenges of the coming century will be figuring out how to grow enough food for everyone on the planet. And all without destroying the planet. That’s harder than it sounds. The global population is expected to swell from 7 billion today to 9.6 billion in 2050. On top of that, countries like China and India are getting richer and eating more meat — a particularly resource-intensive type of food. Then there’s the environment to consider. Farms have become a major source of nitrogen pollution. Around the world, freshwater aquifers are dwindling. And, perhaps most crucially, countries like Brazil are trying to cut back on deforestation — which in turn makes it harder to find new cropland. . .”

Concentrated Poverty

  • Where America’s poverty is getting more and more concentrated, By Danielle Kurtzleben, June 30, 2014, Vox: “Around 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, but a much bigger share live in areas where the concentration of poverty is particularly high. More than one-quarter of all Americans live in ‘poverty areas,’ places where more than 20 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, currently around $23,600 for a two-parent family of four, according to a new report from the Census Bureau. One striking finding is that Americans living in these poor neighborhoods are more heavily concentrated in the southern US than anywhere else. . .”
  • Maps: A fourth of Americans live in poor neighborhoods, By Niraj Chokshi, June 30, 2014, Washington Post: “A fourth of all Americans live in what the Census Bureau calls ‘poverty areas,’ neighborhoods where at least 1 in 5 have incomes below the poverty level, according to a new report. The share of people living in these poverty areas grew substantially fell during the 1990s but grew substantially over the first decade of the 2000s. As of 2010, it’s up to 25.7 percent, from 18.1 percent in 2000. (In 1990, it was 20 percent.) And while not all people living in such areas are themselves poor, they find themselves in areas associated with a slew of problems. . .”
  • Census outlines ‘poverty areas’: Which states hit hardest? By Daniel B. Wood, June 30, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “The number of US residents living in “poverty areas” has jumped significantly since 2000, according to a Census Bureau report released Monday. According the 2000 Census, less than 1 in 5 people lived in poverty areas. But more recently, 1 in 4 residents have lived in these areas, according to census data collected from 2008 to 2012. The Census Bureau defines a poverty area as any census tract with a poverty rate of 20 percent of more. Sociologists and other analysts point to the Great Recession, in particular housing and job challenges, as well as slow and uneven growth since the recession. . .”

Oil Booms and Poverty – Texas

Boom meets bust in Texas: Atop sea of oil, poverty digs in, By Manny Fernandez and Clifford Krauss, June 29, 2014, New York Times: “From the window of her tin-roofed trailer, Judy Vargas can glimpse a miraculous world. It is as close as the dust kicked up by the trucks barreling by but seems as distant as Mars. As you walk out of her front yard — where the chewed-off leg of an animal, probably a feral hog caught by a prowling bobcat, rots outside — a towering natural gas flare peeks over the southerly view. Across the railroad tracks and Interstate 35, a newly reopened railroad interchange stores acres of pipe and receives shipments of sand from Wisconsin to be used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Next to the terminal is an expanding natural gas processing plant that lies in the heart of the Eagle Ford, a giant shale oil field that here in La Salle County alone produces more than $15 million worth of oil a day, or about one out of every 55 barrels produced in the United States. . .”

Child Poverty

The damage of poverty is visible as early as kindergarten, By Danielle Kurtzleben, June 12, 2014, Vox: “A big part of the American Dream is being able to climb the ladder and land higher than your parents. But that climb starts when people are just small children, according to new research, and getting off on the wrong foot has lifelong consequences. In a new article in the spring issue of the Princeton University journal The Future of Children (and highlighted by the Brookings social mobility blog), researchers show that poverty is directly correlated to kindergarten performance. Children who live in poverty have far lower performance than their richer peers across a variety of measures, and those who live in near poverty in turn have dramatically worse performance than middle-class peers. The poorest kids, for example, are less than one-third as likely as middle-class kids to recognize letters. . .”

Low-Income Households and Hurricane Sandy Recovery

  • N.J.’s low-income households still reeling from Hurricane Sandy: Study, By Stephen Stirling, October 26, 2013, Star-Ledger: “New Jersey’s low income households were disproportionally affected by Hurricane Sandy and received a starkly small amount of federal assistance in the year following the storm, according to a new study released by Rutgers University. The study, released Friday by the Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration, analyzes reams of state and federal data to paint a comprehensive picture of where New Jersey is one year after Sandy struck, and shows the state still needs tens of billions of dollars of work to truly recover from the storm…”
  • Public housing residents relying on agency still recovering from storm, By Mireya Navarro, October 29, 2013, New York Times: “The midday food giveaways at Gravesend Houses in Coney Island began soon after Hurricane Sandy, and are still going strong. A year after the storm, the food line is one of many reminders of the persistent vulnerability of New York City’s public housing and the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the projects…”

New Orleans Economic Report

New Orleans shows striking potential, persistent problems, 8 years after Hurricane Katrina, economic report says, by Mark Waller, August 14, 2013, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “With the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina impending, the New Orleans area is showing encouraging signs that it might be pulling off a rare reversal of a once-entrenched economic decline, but some weaknesses persist, concludes the latest check on the region’s economic health by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. The Data Center’s report, called the New Orleans Index at Eight and released Wednesday, compared the city to national averages, a group of growing cities that New Orleans might hope to emulate and a group of cities with moribund economic numbers from 1990 to 2000, more resembling New Orleans during the same period…”

Climate Change and the World’s Poor

  • World’s poorest will feel brunt of climate change, warns World Bank, By Fiona Harvey, June 19, 2013, The Guardian: “Millions of people around the world are likely to be pushed back into poverty because climate change is undermining economic development in poor countries, the World Bank has warned. Droughts, floods, heatwaves, sea-level rises and fiercer storms are likely to accompany increasing global warming and will cause severe hardship in areas that are already poor or were emerging from poverty, the bank said in a report. Food shortages will be among the first consequences within just two decades, along with damage to cities from fiercer storms and migration as people try to escape the effects…”
  • Climate change threatens trouble in the near future, World Bank says, By Howard Schneider, June 18, 2013, Washington Post: “The World Bank is beginning to commit billions of dollars to flood prevention, water management and other projects to help major Asian cities avoid the expected impact of climate change, a dramatic example of how short the horizon has become to alleviate the effects of global warming. Places such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City are now considered ‘hot spots’ that will bear the brunt of the impact as sea levels rise, tropical storms become more violent, and rainfall becomes both more sporadic and — in the rainy season — more intense…”

Poverty and Disease

Study links disease, poverty and biodiversity, By Kenneth R. Weiss, December 26, 2012, Los Angeles Times: “Poverty and disease often come together. That much is well understood. But how much does poverty foster disease? Or, how much can disease perpetuate poverty? And what’s the role of nature, given that so many infectious diseases are spread by mosquitoes or spend part of their life cycle outside of the human body? A new study finds that certain types of infectious and parasitic diseases have a significant influence on economic development across the world and accounts for some of the differences in per-capita income between those who live in countries in the tropics or those in temperate latitudes…”

Hurricane Sandy and Low-Income Residents – New York City

  • For some after the storm, no work means no pay, By Shaila Dewan and Andrew Martin, November 2, 2012, New York Times: “Chantal Sainvilus, a home health aide in Brooklyn who makes $10 an hour, does not get paid if she does not show up. So it is no wonder that she joined the thousands of people taking extreme measures to get to work this week, even, in her case, hiking over the Williamsburg Bridge. While salaried employees worked if they could, often from home after Hurricane Sandy, many of the poorest New Yorkers faced the prospect of losing days, even a crucial week, of pay on top of the economic ground they have lost since the recession…”
  • In New York’s public housing, fear creeps in with the dark, By Cara Buckley and Michael Wilson, November 2, 2012, New York Times: “It would be dark soon at the Coney Island Houses, the fourth night without power, elevators and water. Another night of trips up and down pitch-black staircases, lighted by shaky flashlights and candles. Another night of retreating from the dark. On the second floor of Building 4, an administrative assistant named Santiago, 43, who was sharing her apartment with five relatives, ran through a mental checklist. Turn the oven on for heat. Finish errands, like fetching water for the toilet, before the light fades…”

LA Times Series on the World’s Population

Beyond 7 billion, series homepage, By Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times: “After remaining stable for most of human history, the world’s population has exploded over the last two centuries. The boom is not over: The biggest generation in history is just entering its childbearing years. The coming wave will reshape the planet, and the impact will be greatest in the poorest, most unstable countries…”

Poverty and Child Asthma Rates – New York City

Poor children drive city’s asthma rate, By Sumathi Reddy and Jie Jenny Zou, July 17, 2012, Wall Street Journal: “One in eight New York City children has been diagnosed with asthma, with poor children nearly twice as likely to suffer from the respiratory disease, according to a report to be posted by the city health officials on Wednesday. The report was based on a 2009 survey and is the first time the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has estimated the number of children with asthma. The survey of parents found that 177,000 children 12 years and younger-or 13% of children in that age group-had received an asthma diagnosis at some point in their lives…”

Scientific American Series: Pollution, Poverty and People of Color

Scientific American Special Report: Pollution, Poverty, and People of Color:

  • Living with Industry, By Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz (Environmental Health News), June 4, 2012, Scientific American: “From the house where he was born, Henry Clark can stand in his back yard and see plumes pouring out of one of the biggest oil refineries in the United States. As a child, he was fascinated by the factory on the hill, all lit up at night like the hellish twin of a fairy tale city. In the morning, he’d go out to play and find the leaves on the trees burned to a crisp…”
  • Children at Risk, By Lindsey Konkel  (Environmental Health News), June 6, 2012, Scientific American: “When doctors told Wanda Ford her 2-year-old son had lead poisoning, she never suspected that the backyard in her low-income neighborhood was the likely culprit. Ford knew that exposure to the heavy metal could be dangerous. So when she and her husband moved into the Lower Lincoln Street neighborhood, Ford, then pregnant, took steps to make sure their 100-year-old home was lead-free. ‘We never thought to test the soil – my son played in the backyard all the time,’ said Ford, whose son is now seven…”
  • Don’t Drink the Water, By Liza Gross (Environmental Health News), June 12, 2012, Scientific American: “Jessica Sanchez sits on the edge of her seat in her mother’s kitchen, hands resting on her bulging belly. Eight months pregnant, she’s excited about the imminent birth of her son. But she’s scared too. A few feet away, her mother, Bertha Dias, scrubs potatoes with water she bought from a vending machine. She won’t use the tap water because it’s contaminated with nitrates…”
  • A Michigan Tribe Battles a Global Corporation, By Brian Bienkowski  (Environmental Health News), June 12, 2012, Scientific American: “Head in any direction on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and you will reach gushing rivers, placid ponds and lakes – both Great and small. An abundant resource, this water has nourished a small Native American community for hundreds of years. So 10 years ago, when an international mining company arrived near the shores of Lake Superior to burrow a mile under the Earth and pull metals out of ore, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa had to stand for its rights and its water…”
  • Falling into the Climate Gap, By Doug Struck  (Environmental Health News), June 19, 2012, Scientific American: “The Shore Plaza East apartments have a stunning skyline view of downtown Boston across the harbor: Waves lap at the foot of the eight-story building; sailboats carve foam trails in the water. These could be million-dollar condos. But, buffeted by winds and the threat of storm-water flooding, these apartments are subsidized housing, reserved for the poor…”
  • Asthma and the Inner City, By Crystal Gammon  (Environmental Health News), June 20, 2012, Scientific American: “On a clear spring day, the four-year-olds laughed as they ran out on the playground at the start of morning recess. Within minutes, one boy stopped, a terrified look on his face. Brenda Crisp and her staff immediately realized what was happening: Asthma attack…”

UNICEF Report: State of the World’s Children 2012

  • Make children the cornerstone of urban decision-making, urges Unicef, By Mark Tran, February 28, 2012, The Guardian: “Unicef has urged governments to put children at the heart of urban planning – and to improve services for all – since the majority of the world’s children will grow up in towns or cities rather than in rural areas. In its report, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, the UN agency said hundreds of millions of children who live in urban slums are being excluded from vital services, from clean water to education…”
  • Split between rich and poor greater in cities, UNICEF reports, By Leslie Scrivener, February 28, 2012, Toronto Star: “Five-year-old Kiara appears well cared for – nicely dressed, well-fed and loved. Her hair shines. But she has worked with her family since she was three, selling trinkets in the subway trains of Buenos Aires. There have been mishaps: she has fallen onto the train tracks while playing, and last year she broke her arm in a train door. Almost half the world’s children live in cities. Their families are lured from their rural homes, hoping to find jobs for themselves and education for their children. It doesn’t always work out that way. ‘It’s heartbreaking for parents,’ says David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada. ‘They don’t want their children working on the street. They wish they had enough.’ In its annual report, released on Tuesday, UNICEF explores the struggles faced by families raising their offspring in the world’s slums, where one in three city-dwellers now live…”
  • World’s slum children in desperate need, UNICEF says, By Robyn Dixon, February 28, 2012, Los Angeles Times: “You see them, night and day, in nearly every African city. They are ragged children dodging between the cars: beggars, shoeshine boys, teenage prostitutes, petty traders and porters carrying loads on their heads with thin, pinched faces and anxious eyes. They tap on car windows, begging, and wait by the highway desperate to sell their goods. Around half the people in the world live in cities and towns, a billion of them children, as the urban population spirals. Millions of children live in slums and shantytowns and they’re dying of the same illnesses that kill the rural poor, according to UNICEF: hunger, diarrhea and disease caused by poor sanitation and overcrowding…”

Mobile Banking – Haiti

How Haiti is fighting poverty by killing cash, By Margo Conner, January 27, 2012, Christian Science Monitor: “In Haiti, cash is escaping from wallets and savings accounts are breaking free from brick-and-mortar banks. Two years after 2010’s devastating earthquake, mobile money has taken off in the island nation. While the country has seen setbacks in many areas and continues to struggle, one bright spot is the transformation of the country’s traditional banking sector. Physical banks were wiped away by the quake and subsequent hurricane, and a mobile banking network that uses cell phones has grown up in their place…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

  • States get $845 million in home heat aid from feds, By Andrew Miga (AP), December 22, 2011, Boston Globe: “States got more than $845 million in federal home heating aid on Thursday, but the latest round of government funding won’t take the chill from the fuel assistance program, which is being cut by about a quarter this winter. New England, with its reliance on costly home heating oil, is expected to be especially hit hard by the spending cut. Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits this winter…”
  • Home heating help slashed by $1 billion, By Pamela M. Prah, December 22, 2011, “Just in time for the cold weather and holiday season, states have learned that Congress cut $1.2 billion from a program to provide heating and cooling assistance to low-income families. The large spending bill that Congress approved this month for 2012 contained about $3.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Advocates of LIHEAP had hoped Congress would fund the program at its 2010 level of $5.1 billion; it was funded at $4.7 billion for 2011, an amount that several governors urged Congress to maintain for this year. President Obama’s budget proposal would have cut LIHEAP funding by nearly 50 percent to $2.6 billion, so the congressional figure came down somewhere in the middle…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Northeast states cut heating aid to poor, By Andrew Miga (AP), December 11, 2011, Boston Globe: “Mary Power is 92 and worried about surviving another frigid New England winter because deep cuts in federal home heating assistance benefits mean she probably can’t afford enough heating oil to stay warm. She lives in a drafty trailer in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood and gets by on $11,148 a year in pension and Social Security benefits. Her heating aid help this year will drop from $1,035 to $685. With rising heating oil prices, it probably will cost her more than $3,000 for enough oil to keep warm unless she turns her thermostat down to 60 degrees, as she plans. ‘I will just have to crawl into bed with the covers over me and stay there,’ said Power, a widow who worked as a cashier and waitress until she was 80. ‘I will do what I have to do.’ Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government…”

Fuel Poverty – UK

  • One in four face fuel poverty, says Consumer Focus, December 2, 2011, BBC News: “The proportion of homes in fuel poverty in England and Wales has risen from 18% to 24% in two years, estimates suggest. Consumer Focus calculated that nearly 5.7 million households are in fuel poverty – when more than 10% of their disposable income is spent on fuel. The watchdog said the issue was particularly acute in Wales, where 41% of households were in fuel poverty…”
  • One in four households suffer from fuel poverty, By Donna Bowater and James Kirkup, December 2, 2011, The Telegraph: “New calculations by Consumer Focus show more than five million households are now forced to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on heating and lighting their homes. The previous forecast of 4.1 million households was made before the big six energy suppliers increased huge price rises last summer. The figure has risen 25 per cent from last year when a fifth of homes were struggling with fuel poverty after sharp increases in energy bills in the autumn. It means the Government is unlikely to meet its legal obligation to end fuel poverty within five years…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program

  • Budget pressure on help for low income families with heating bills, By Brett Neely, November 30, 2011, Minnesota Public Radio: “A federal program that helps low income families pay their heating bill is coming under intense budget pressure. The Low Income Heating Assistance Program sent Minnesota more than $152 million last year. That money helped 172,000 households, including many seniors, the disabled and the poor, pay their heating bills. The average grant from the LIHEAP program was just over $500 for the winter. But with austerity the new buzzword in Washington, the program’s funding is drying up fast – just as many households prepare for higher heating bills…”
  • A costly winter ahead for home heating oil users, By Les Christie, December 1, 2011, “Bill McLaughlin is bracing himself for a tough winter. He and his wife, Cindy, live in Brewer, Maine and neither of them are working. Bill, who’s 59, is disabled and Cindy lost her job more than a year ago. And now the cold is setting in. During any winter in Maine, paying for the oil that heats their home is a big expense. But this winter, it will be especially taxing. The price of heating the average home with oil is expected to jump 10% this year to an average of $2,535 over the winter heating season (October 1 through March 31), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s 45% higher than just two years ago, when the average bill was just $1,752…”

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program – Maine

Federal cuts give Maine a chill as winter approaches, By Abby Goodnough, November 27, 2011, New York Times: “Michele Hodges works six days a week but still cannot afford a Maine winter’s worth of heat for her trailer in Corinth, a tiny town where snowmobiles can outnumber cars. Ms. Hodges and her two teenage daughters qualified for federal heating assistance last year, but their luck might have run out. President Obama has proposed sharply cutting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and Maine is at this point expecting less than half of the $55.6 million that it received last winter, even as more people are applying. The average state benefit last year was about $800 for the season; now it may be closer to $300. Eligibility requirements have tightened too, and with oil prices climbing – the average in Maine was $3.66 a gallon last week, up from $2.87 a year ago – many here are anticipating days or weeks of forgoing heat…”

Census Data on Mobility

Record-low percentage of Americans moved between 2010 and 2011, By Daniel B. Wood, November 15, 2011, Christian Science Monitor: “There are many casualties of the Great Recession, including jobs, homeownership, retirement savings, and consumer confidence. Those issues are well known, but here’s one that isn’t as frequently discussed: Americans’ mobility. In a nutshell, bad times mean staying put, demographers and economists say. Uncertainty means clinging to the familiar, which more often than not means maintaining the residence you already have. The issue affects Americans’ aspirations about getting married and having a family. And it can be a big factor as they think about what constitutes a dream home, when to retire, and where to move in retirement…”