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The good folks at Think Progress published a story yesterday entitled “Your assumptions about welfare recipients are wrong.” It’s a myth-buster worth checking out as we contemplate the realities that confront so many of our fellow Americans — especially during the holiday season.

“The stereotype of the low-income people enrolled in government programs is that they spend the money on frivolities and are unwise with their budgets. But the data proves otherwise. Families who receive public benefits such as housing assistance, welfare cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security Income (SSI) for the disabled or low-income elderly have much smaller spending budgets than those who don’t receive benefits and spend a bigger portion on the basics such as food, housing, and transportation, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On average, families who are enrolled in these public programs spend less than half of what families who aren’t enrolled spend. They also put a bigger percentage of that money toward food, housing, and transportation, devoting 77 percent of their budgets to these necessities compared to about 65 percent for other families. Meanwhile, they spend less, on average, on some things thought to be luxuries like eating out and entertainment. A family that doesn’t get public benefits spends 4.5 percent of its budget on ‘food away from home,’ while a two-parent family who gets benefits spends 4 percent of its budget on eating out and a single parent spends 3.6 percent. ‘Food away from home spending was higher in both dollar amount and percent of total spending among families not receiving assistance,’ the report notes. Families who don’t need assistance also spend more on entertainment in both dollar and percentage terms and devote more of their budgets to ‘other’ expenses.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

At a time when ensuring that all students receive a quality education is more important than ever, students from low-income families are increasingly less likely to experience academic success and educational opportunities than their affluent peers. In fact, students from affluent families are 10 times more likely to graduate from high school and go on to earn a college degree by age 24 compared to students from low-income families.

This skewed outcome alone is startling, but what it projects for North Carolina’s future is even more troubling. With an increasing number of jobs in the state, and nationally, expected to require some level of postsecondary education, we need more of our students from low-income families – who now represent a majority of students in our public schools – graduating from high school and going on to earn a postsecondary credential.

The United States is one of the few advanced nations where more educational resources tend to flow to schools serving better-off children than schools serving poor students, a recent New York Times article highlights. Read More

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Speaking of anniversaries, the fine advocacy group Action for Children North Carolina celebrated its 30th last week. Executive Director Deborah Bryan sent us the following essay in contemplation of the event.  

Supporting Our Children’s Past, Present and Future

Since 1983, North Carolinians have raised millions of children–and we have millions more to go. Each in a small but real way holds the state’s future in his or her hands. Action for Children North Carolina exists to give them every opportunity to succeed. The last 30 years points the way for the decades to come.

Action for Children’s network of support has ensured that the voices of our children are heard in local and state government, school districts and even our state’s juvenile and adult correctional facilities.

Our advocates have worked tirelessly to:

*expand Health Choice to cover more than 140,000 children;

*ensure the passage of critical child safety laws like the booster seat law and the child bicycle safety act;

*orchestrate the ban of corporal punishment in nearly all of North Carolina’s school districts; and

*help lift nearly 300,000 North Carolinians, half of whom were children, above the federal poverty line through passage of the Earned Income Tax Credit–all successes we achieved together.

Even with all of these accomplishments, our work is far from complete. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Poverty remains elevated in North Carolina and the nation as we continue to deal with the painfully slow recovery. As I explained back in September, new Census Bureau data on poverty and income confirm that the economic recovery is continuing to bypass middle- and lower-income families. The little economic growth that is taking place is also sidestepping certain demographic groups, including children, communities of color, and women. A snapshot of these disparities, as well as how poverty varies across the state, is captured in a new infographic released today by the NC Budget and Tax CenterRead More

NC Budget and Tax Center

For decades, policymakers and economists alike have all assumed that a growing economy automatically translates into increased prosperity and improved quality of life for a majority of citizens. This is the theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” As the American economy continues to transition in the 21st century, however, it is increasingly clear that economic growth by itself neither lifts all boats nor delivers the benefits to America’s working families that have long been promised.

In a point echoed by a recent BTC report, economic growth just isn’t enough—positive change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) no longer translates into increased prosperity for all.

In fact, the opposite is true. As shown in the following charts developed by Demos, decades of economic growth have yielded little in the way of increased incomes for working families;

Personal_Income_Lags_Behind_Growth_1

…. or meaningful reductions in poverty.

Read More