A fixture in the community of scholars focusing on issues of poverty, inequality, and social policy for more than 40 years – Robert Plotnick – is retiring this spring from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. Bob has long been a mentor and friend, and his retirement announcement provided me with a nudge and opportunity to read, Progress Against Poverty: A Review of the 1964-1974 Decade, published in 1975 with co-author Felicity Skidmore. Apart from being one of the first scholarly efforts to assess the impact of the War on Poverty, Progress Against Poverty has the distinction of being the first book volume commissioned by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (IRP).
As minimum wage rates rise across many cities and states, there is a renewed discussion around how such laws affect workers and businesses. Less often discussed, however, is the impact of such laws on nonprofit organizations — in particular organizations that employ low-wage workers to provide care or services to the most vulnerable residents in our community. The latest report from the Minimum Wage Study at the University of Washington, examines initial nonprofit responses to the local move to $15 an hour.
The national poverty report produced by the Census Bureau in September showed the poverty rate to have fallen from 14.8% to 13.5% between 2014 and 2015. This was much welcomed news after more than a decade of very little improved economic opportunity for those at the lower end of the wage and income distribution.
While most attention at the time was paid to the drop in the poverty rate, the report’s appendices indicate the number of poor persons in the U.S. fell by more than 3.5 million from 2014 to 2015. Recent progress on poverty should bolster support for the safety net and encourage us to do more.
Safia Samee Ali’s recent piece for NBC News captures the challenges confronting low-income residents of cities today. Factors, such as gentrification and rising rents, push families out of their homes and neighborhoods in cities. At the same time many of the suburban destinations awaiting families leaving the city do not necessarily foster access to greater opportunity.
Recently, the Furman Center at NYU posted a scholarly give-and-take exchange around issues of suburban poverty, segregation, and the safety net as part of its series The Dream Revisited. Following insight and commentary on race and suburbanization by Alan Berube, Georgette Phillips, and Thomas B. Harvey, my piece in this series turned to how local suburban safety nets are composed.
Recently, I published a short monograph on suburban poverty with a UW doctoral student, Sarah Charnes Paisner. Our monograph examines the suburbanization of poverty in metropolitan areas with a particular focus on the experience of the United States. Discussion highlights key trends and likely causes of suburban poverty and provides an overview of various attempts to classify heterogeneity across suburbs.