This presentation on poverty is a core orientation training module for all AmeriCorps*VISTAs. We have adapted the traditional training for the needs of Campus Compact VISTAs and incorporated a section on government policies that alleviate poverty and build assets. If you have any questions during the presentation, feel free to interrupt us. We are also counting on you to share your expertise and experiences, if you feel comfortable doing so. Your fellow VISTAs will remember your insights much longer that they will remember our presentation!
we have several learning objectives for this presentation.
Explain to participants that there are many lenses through which we can discuss poverty. The causes of poverty are complex and people in poverty are not a homogeneous group. The term includes people ranging from the homeless to the working poor. We could spend the entire session on how the distribution of wealth impacts poverty, or how poverty is built into the structure of our capitalist economy, or the implications of tax laws. The hope is that you will be better prepared to address poverty as VISTAs once you understand the context in which you are working: VISTA is the only national service program whose mission is to address poverty. Campus Compact VISTAs work specifically on creating long-term partnerships, educating lifelong citizens, and making institutional changes in higher education to alleviate poverty.
Age: Children comprise the greatest numbers and percentages of people in poverty. Race & Hispanic origin: The highest numbers of people in poverty are white; however, people of color have the highest percentages of their population in poverty. The African American unemployment rate is historically double that of the white unemployment rate. In the first quarter of 2009, black unemployment was 13.6% compared to the white unemployment rate of 8.2%. This is particularly clear when examining wealth. African Americans own only 7 cents for every dollar of net worth that white Americans own; for Hispanics the figure is only slightly higher at 9 cents for every dollar. Household type: Out of the large number of married households, a small percentage of them live in poverty. Out of the small number of female-headed households, a large percentage of them live in poverty. 2/3 of adults in poverty are women, 44% of single mothers remain below the poverty level. Employment status: The total number of people in poverty who worked full time or part time is higher than those who did not work at all. Educational attainment: The more advanced one’s education is, the less likely it is that he/she will experience high rates of poverty.
Understanding poverty is an important anchor for your year as a Campus Compact VISTA. Institutional politics, the diverse missions of community partners or campus offices may make it a challenge to remember your anti-poverty mission for the year. Sometimes investing in long-term transformation, like incorporating community partnerships into a curriculum, seem less important than getting out there and addressing pressing community problems. But at the core of every one of your work plans is the anti-poverty mission.
The organizations and campus offices where you will work may have programs to address both relative and absolute poverty, from tutoring programs that help narrow the education gap to collecting food for homeless shelters.
Relative poverty is also about comparative access to health, education, public safety, and other public resources. European countries do not use an absolute poverty measurement like ours to measure inequality. They measure a person’s distance from the median income, which captures the notion that we are poor or rich within the context of our community.
There are many paths into and out of poverty; many events throw people into poverty and many events help people exit from poverty. Responding to trigger events may be central to your work on campus, from planning alternative break trips to areas affected by hurricane Katrina to tutoring programs for children of incarcerated parents.
The fact that most people in poverty work full time indicates that there are structural and institutional factors that prevent many households from leaving poverty. Unfortunately, America is steeped in a tradition of splitting people in poverty into the “worthy” and “unworthy,” and people in generational poverty are often blamed for not pulling themselves out of poverty.
Theoretical models are helpful for us to begin to absorb the realities and nuances of the communities where we will live and serve. Every community is at a different intersection of these larger state, national, and global issues, so solutions have to be appropriate for specific communities. Nevertheless, it’s important for you to understand poverty at an systemic level, because you are responsible for making sustainable, systematic change. As a VISTA, you’ll be grappling with the big picture to protect and secure economic stability for your community.
Income supports like TANF and food stamps protect some families from absolute poverty. Helping families develop assets above basic consumption needs helps protect against economic shocks and may break the cycle of generational poverty. For the vast majority of households, the pathway out of poverty is through savings and accumulation, so families can plan beyond one paycheck or emergency.
We often think of government welfare as income transfers to low-income families with children. However, a broad range of government programs redistribute tax funds to low and moderate income families. It is helpful to understand government welfare as three general categories: fiscal, occupational, and social. First, government programs that support fiscal welfare include taxation, monetary and fiscal policies. Income, property, estate, capital gains, and corporate income taxes can all be tools for wealth and income redistribution. The Earned Income Tax Credit is an example of fiscal welfare that offers benefit to low-income working families. Second, occupational welfare includes jobs, wages, and unions, like the Workforce Investment Act, or Welfare to Work programs. VISTA could also be considered an occupational welfare program! There are two kinds of social welfare programs, social insurance and social assistance. Social insurance programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance, are contribution based and offer benefits for workers across the income spectrum. Social insurance programs require workers to pay for care through payroll taxes, thus creating more equity of income throughout a person’s life. Unlike social insurance programs, social assistance programs do not require a contribution, and are more redistributive to low-income citizens. Social assistance programs are means-tested, which means that a client must prove that they earn less than a particular income. Basic need programs include Medicaid, programs that subsidize housing costs, and Food Stamps. What other Social Welfare programs are designed to alleviate poverty and build assets? Unemployment Insurance Social Security Social Security Disability Insurance ADFC/TANF: Temporary Aid to Needy Families Food Stamps and WIC Heating Assistance and weatherization services Child Care Subsidies State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Section 8 Rent Allowances (vouchers) EITC: Earned Income Tax Credits IDAs: Individual Development Accounts Tax Codes, bankruptcy, property laws, home mortgage deductions The GI Bill
We’ll be breaking out into small groups soon. Does anyone have any questions or thoughts now about models of poverty, asset-building as an anti-poverty strategy, or redistributive government policies? Second years, VISTA leaders, and program directors, do you have anything to add before our next activity?
Groups present out their ideas to address regional poverty-related issues
Poverty Workshop 2009
Poverty: Concepts, Policies & Strategies
Learning Objectives <ul><li>Discuss causes of poverty </li></ul><ul><li>Describe models and types of poverty </li></ul><ul><li>Outline government fiscal, occupational, and social welfare policies </li></ul><ul><li>Share how Campus Compact VISTAs can enhance individual and community assets </li></ul>
Causes of Poverty <ul><li>Shifts in the global economy and national recession </li></ul><ul><li>Predatory lending in housing and credit card market </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of affordable housing </li></ul><ul><li>Limited access to quality educational opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Low minimum wage and declining real wage </li></ul><ul><li>The unequal distribution of income and wealth </li></ul><ul><li>Reduction in union membership </li></ul><ul><li>Natural disasters </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of a national health care system </li></ul><ul><li>Others? </li></ul>
Factors that contribute to Poverty and Inequality <ul><li>Age </li></ul><ul><li>Race & Hispanic origin </li></ul><ul><li>Gender </li></ul><ul><li>Household type </li></ul><ul><li>Employment status </li></ul><ul><li>Educational attainment </li></ul><ul><li>Public Policies </li></ul>
<ul><li>As Campus Compact VISTAs, you have the opportunity to address poverty at the community level and to change a system that perpetuates poverty. </li></ul>
How Can A Campus Compact VISTA build Individual and community assets? <ul><li>Supporting community cooperatives and micro enterprise through a service-learning course </li></ul><ul><li>Training students to assist individuals filing for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) </li></ul><ul><li>Organizing financial literacy programs in schools and community development organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Instituting SAT, FAFSA, and college application preparation for high school students </li></ul><ul><li>Recruiting volunteers to support community organizations that build social, educational and financial assets </li></ul>
Models of Poverty: Absolute and Relative <ul><li>Two main models used to describe poverty: absolute and relative. </li></ul><ul><li>Absolute poverty: lack of basic human needs. </li></ul><ul><li>Relative poverty: lack of a diet, amenities, housing, or standards that are customary to a society. </li></ul><ul><li>Both absolute and relative poverty limit a person’s capacity to fully engage as a social and economic actor in society. </li></ul>
Relative Poverty <ul><ul><ul><li>The minimum wage does not meet federal guidelines for a family to avoid poverty. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The poverty line for a family of 4 is $18,100. The minimum wage provides a full time worker with $10,712 at 40 hours a week. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>In order for full time workers to stay above the poverty line, they would need to earn at least $8.70 an hour, far greater than the $5.15 minimum wage. </li></ul></ul></ul>
Situational Poverty <ul><li>“ Trigger events” like changes in employment status, disability status, household composition, and natural disasters are often the cause for entry to or exit from poverty. </li></ul>
Generational Poverty <ul><li>Of the 34 million Americans living in poverty, about 75 percent are in generational poverty and the remaining are in situational. </li></ul><ul><li>Without interventions, it is very likely that the 25 million living in generational poverty will remain in this state for the remainder of their lives. </li></ul><ul><li>60% of people in poverty worked full-time in 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>Investing in education, increasing the real wage and reducing income and wealth inequality are key policies for reducing generational poverty. </li></ul>
Concluding thoughts on Models of Poverty <ul><li>What are some reasons why it’s helpful for VISTAs to understand the models and types of poverty? </li></ul>
Asset Development <ul><li>Many of you are going to be serving in organizations or programs that address poverty through programs that support asset development </li></ul><ul><li>How does asset development relate to addressing poverty? </li></ul>
Assets <ul><li>Financial assets include credit, property, health insurance, savings, and a retirement plan. </li></ul><ul><li>Wealth and savings can be used for emergencies or as a tool to increase advantage and opportunities. </li></ul><ul><li>Inherited wealth is a transformative asset, lifting families beyond what individual income or achievement would allow. Inheritance includes help with college tuition, gifts toward a down payment, or passing wealth to grandchildren. </li></ul>
Examples of Campus Compact VISTAs building community assets <ul><li>Second Year VISTAs: </li></ul><ul><li>How have your programs built community assets to bring people out of poverty? </li></ul>
Taking Action <ul><li>Break into regional groups: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Massachusetts: Raytheon Theatre </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Michigan: Room 340 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rhode Island and Connecticut: Room 440 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Each regional group will have one community issue. </li></ul><ul><li>Return to the large group in 30 minutes (11:00) to share their plans to address this issue using campus and community resources. </li></ul><ul><li>Brainstorm! There are no limitations to your program ideas. </li></ul>
Reflections on Poverty <ul><li>What part of the session struck you as the most interesting, surprising, or upsetting? </li></ul><ul><li>Second years: how did your first year of service change your expectations about poverty? </li></ul><ul><li>Plus/Deltas </li></ul>
Poverty Resources <ul><li>Understanding Poverty, Danzinger and Haveman </li></ul><ul><li>Black Wealth/White Wealth , Oliver and Shapiro </li></ul><ul><li>The Great Risk Shift , Jacob Hacker </li></ul><ul><li>What Government Can Do , Benjamin Page and James Simmons </li></ul><ul><li>Nickel and Dimed , Barbara Erenreich </li></ul><ul><li>The Census Bureau , http://www.census.gov </li></ul>