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

Category: International

Extreme Poverty

India is no longer home to the largest number of poor people in the world. Nigeria is., By Joanna Slater, July 10, 2018, Washington Post: “It is a distinction that no country wants: the place with the most people living in extreme poverty. For decades, India remained stubbornly in the top spot, a reflection of its huge population and its enduring struggle against poverty. Now, new estimates indicate that Nigeria has knocked India out of that position, part of a profound shift taking place in the geography of the world’s poorest people..”

Child Mortality in the US

American babies are 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than babies in other rich countries, By Christopher Ingraham, January 9, 2018, Washington Post: “American babies are 76 percent more likely to die before they turn a year old than babies in other rich countries, and American children who survive infancy are 57 percent more likely to die before adulthood, according to a sobering new study published in the journal Health Affairs…”

Global Inequality

  • Report: America’s income inequality is on par with Russia’s, December 15, 2017, CBS News: “The lopsided fortunes of America’s richest and poorest citizens are now on par with Russia’s after three decades of rising income inequality, according to a new report from economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez…”
  • U.S. lawmakers are redistributing income from the poor to the rich, according to massive new study, By Christopher Ingraham, December 15, 2017, Washington Post: “Back in 1980, the bottom 50 percent of wage-earners in the United States earned about 21 percent of all income in the country — nearly twice as much as the share of income (11 percent) earned by the top 1 percent of Americans. But today, according to a massive new study on global inequality, those numbers have nearly reversed: The bottom 50 percent take in only 13 percent of the income pie, while the top 1 percent grab over 20 percent of the country’s income…”

Basic Income Program – Ontario, CA

Canadian province experiments with ‘basic income’ payments to low-income people, By Rob Gillies (AP), November 29, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Former security guard Tim Button considers how a sudden increase in his income from an unusual social experiment has changed his life in this Canadian industrial city along the shore of Lake Ontario. Sipping coffee in a Tim Horton’s doughnut shop, Button says he has been unable to work because of a fall from a roof, and the financial boost from Ontario Province’s new ‘basic income’ program has enabled him to make plans to visit distant family for Christmas for the first time in years. It has also prompted him to eat healthier, schedule a long-postponed trip to the dentist and mull taking a course to help him get back to work…”

Poverty Measurement

What’s the meaning of the World Bank’s new poverty lines?, By Marc Silver and Malaka Gharib, October 25, 2017, National Public Radio: “According to the World Bank, if you’re living on $1.90 a day or less, you’re living in extreme poverty. The 767 million people in that category have $1.90 a day or less in purchasing power to fulfill their daily needs…”

Income Inequality Among Retirees

For many older Americans, the rat race is over. But the inequality isn’t., By Peter Whoriskey, October 18, 2017, Washington Post: “While the rat race ends with retirement, one of its principal features extends well past a person’s last day of work. Income inequality in the United States spills over from the job into the last decades of life, according to a new survey that ranks the differences among U.S. retirees as among the most extreme in the 35-country comparison. The report being issued Wednesday by the OECD, or Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, reports levels of inequality in a survey of member countries…”

Guaranteed Basic Income

How to fix poverty: Why not just give people money?, By Nurith Aizenman, August 7, 2017, National Public Radio: “Young guys in dusty polo shirts. New moms holding their babies. Grandmas in bright head wraps. They’ve all gathered in a clearing for one of the village meetings when something remarkable happens. Practically every person’s cellphone starts tinkling. It’s a text alert from an American charity called GiveDirectly. Last fall, GiveDirectly announced that it will give every adult in this impoverished village in Kenya an extra $22 each month for the next 12 years — with no strings attached…”

Poverty and Brain Development

How poverty affects the brain, By Carina Storrs, July 12, 2017, Nature: “In the late 1960s, a team of researchers began doling out a nutritional supplement to families with young children in rural Guatemala. They were testing the assumption that providing enough protein in the first few years of life would reduce the incidence of stunted growth. It did. Children who got supplements grew 1 to 2 centimetres taller than those in a control group. But the benefits didn’t stop there. The children who received added nutrition went on to score higher on reading and knowledge tests as adolescents, and when researchers returned in the early 2000s, women who had received the supplements in the first three years of life completed more years of schooling and men had higher incomes…”

Rich/Poor Health Disparities

U.S. one of world’s worst on health divide between rich, poor, By Sarah Toy, June 7, 2017, USA Today: “The U.S. has one of the world’s largest health disparities between the rich and poor — behind only Chile and Portugal — and its healthcare system and lack of social supports are to blame, experts say. Researchers examining surveys on health and income from people in 32 countries found poor Americans reported worse health than rich U.S. residents in significant numbers…”

In-Work Poverty – Britain

Record 60% of Britons in poverty are in working families – study, By Patrick Butler, May 22, 2017, The Guardian: “A record 60% of British people in poverty live in a household where someone is in work, according to researchers, with the risk of falling into financial hardship especially high for families in private rented housing. Although successive governments have maintained that work is the best route out of poverty, the study by Cardiff University academics says the risk of poverty for adults in working families grew by a quarter over the past decade…”

Basic-Income Program – Ontario, CA

4,000 Canadian families will soon get paid by Ontario for doing nothing, By Alan Freeman, April 27, 2017, Washington Post: “The government of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is joining the basic-income bandwagon with the launch of a three-year pilot program that will test how paying people an unconditional basic wage works in practice…”

Fuel Poverty – England

More than 2.3m families living in fuel poverty in England, By Jessica Elgot, December 30, 2016, The Guardian: “More than 2.3 million families are living in fuel poverty in England – the equivalent of 10% of households, according to government statistics. Almost 60,000 households in Birmingham alone cannot afford to heat their homes. The figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show the West Midlands city is worst affected, with Leeds, Cornwall, Manchester and Liverpool also in the top five local authorities where households face ‘eat or heat’ choices in winter…”

Basic Income – Finland

Finland trials basic income for unemployed, By Jon Henley, January 3, 2017, The Guardian: “Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum, in a social experiment that will be watched around the world amid gathering interest in the idea of a universal basic income.  Under the two-year, nationwide pilot scheme, which began on 1 January, 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 will receive a guaranteed sum of €560 (£475). The income will replace their existing social benefits and will be paid even if they find work…”

Mobile Banking

  • Dial M for money: Can mobile banking lift people out of poverty?, By Nurith Aizenman, December 9, 2016, National Public Radio: “If you live in Kenya there’s a jingle you hear on television and radio a lot.   ‘Things are now modern!’ they sing. ‘Things are now developed.’ It’s an ad for a type of banking service called M-PESA that’s run entirely through your mobile phone. You set up an account with the phone company. You can send and receive funds by text. Or, if you need to make a cash deposit or withdrawal, you do it through a vast network of agents — small-time vendors in kiosks and shops, for example, that the company has set up…”
  • Here’s why mobile money is dramatically reducing poverty in Kenya, By Robert Gebelhoff, December 22, 2016, Washington Post: “For Tavneet Suri, an economics professor at MIT who grew up in Kenya, much has changed in her home country over the past decade. What used to be an economy relatively closed off to the rest of the world is now a one where the vast majority of people are paying bills and sharing money with one another through cellphones…”

Cost of Poverty – Toronto, CA

Cost of poverty in Toronto pegged at $5.5 billion a year, By Laurie Monsebraaten, November 28, 2016, Toronto Star: “Poverty in Toronto costs between $4.4 billion and $5.5 billion a year, according to a groundbreaking report on what we all pay in added health care, policing and depressed economic productivity for the city’s 265,000 families living on low incomes…”

Child Poverty – Toronto, CA

Kids suffer most as Toronto clings to title of child poverty capital, By Laurie Monsebraaten, November 14, 2016, Toronto Star: “Salma Jabeen would love to enrol her 4-year-old daughter in taekwondo or gymnastics. Or buy Zara the small toy she wanted during a recent trip to the mall.  But her husband’s earnings as a security guard barely cover groceries and rent for the family’s sparsely-furnished Thorncliffe Park apartment…”

Fuel Poverty in the UK

Fuel poverty: How can UK tackle cold homes and high bills?, By Dave Harvey, November 17, 2016, BBC News: “When the temperature drops and the chill sets in, people in the UK are more likely to feel it in their homes than their continental neighbours. In European surveys comparing 16 countries with similar climates, the UK was near the bottom.  Why? Because it has the draughtiest windows and least insulated homes. For many families that means the moment they turn off the heating, the warmth goes out of the windows…”

Natural Disasters and Poverty

Natural disasters push 26m into poverty each year, says World Bank, By Larry Elliott, November 14, 2016, The Guardian: “Floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and other extreme natural disasters push 26 million people into poverty each year and cost the global economy more than half a trillion dollars in lost consumption, the World Bank has said.  A bank study of 117 countries concluded that the full cost of natural disasters was $520bn (£416bn) a year – 60% higher than any previous estimate – once the impact on poor people was taken into account…”

Microlending

You asked, we answer: Can microloans lift women out of poverty?, By Nurith Aizenman, November 1, 2016, National Public Radio: “‘I would like to know more about microloans, and if they are in fact helping women start businesses in the developing world.’  That’s the question our readers wanted us to look into.  You’ve probably heard the stories. A desperately poor woman in a poor country gets a tiny loan — a couple hundred dollars. It’s the break she’s always needed. With that money she can finally buy the materials to start a small business. She turns a profit. Her income rises. Now she has money to expand her business even further, buy her kids more nutritious food, pay their school fees. Over time, she lifts her whole family out of poverty.  That’s the vision often associated with microloans in the popular imagination.  But is it the reality..?”