Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Brian Paris / flickr

When I was in eighth grade my social studies teacher explained to my class the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

This lesson in American politics is my only specific memory of anything I "learned" in any class that year. For example, I'm sure I learned things in honors biology. But in my memory I see nothing except  for a kid doing push-ups in front of the class because he swore. 

Five takeaways from our reporting on poverty

Mar 20, 2015
Brendan Riley / Flickr

In America, we say we believe every child should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they live or how much money is in their parents' bank account. 

But not all kids have access to opportunity, and low-income families are repeatedly at a disadvantage.

State of Opportunity has devoted close to three years investigating the barriers low-income kids face in trying to get ahead in Michigan.

We think it's time for a look back at what we’ve learned so far.

Jennifer Deming / photoswithflair.com

It’s hard to remember now. Naton Brown isn’t sure what year it was. But she was eight years old.

"Yeah, I don’t remember," she tells me. "I just know that I kept on telling my mom I had headaches, and we went to the hospital, but then the doctor said it’s just because they thought I was dehydrated or something."

She wasn’t dehydrated. The headaches kept coming. One day at school, Brown fell down the stairs. They took her to the Emergency Room.

Her mother, Delores Lilly, says that’s when they found the tumor.

mootje mootje / flickr

Last week, a Kids Count report had this shocking statistic to share; almost one out of every 10 kids in Michigan lives in a family investigated for abuse or neglect.

Those investigations start with a phone call or a knock on the door. For parents who find a Child Protective Service (CPS) worker on the other end, it’s a moment that could change everything.

Steve Rhodes / flickr

Michigan has been under a federal court order to improve its foster care system for years. The state wants the monitoring to stop, but there's no guarantee that's going to happen soon. 

Being the focus of federal oversight is probably a pain. There are a ton of reporting requirements, it costs money, and the state gets ordered around a lot. 

After a weekend profile in the Detroit Free Press, many of us are now familiar with the story of James Robertson. Because of income constraints and nonsensical public transportation policy, Robertson has walked about 21 miles every weekday for the past 10 years to get from his home in Detroit to his work in the suburbs. 

Dustin Dwyer

We've mentioned here more than once that boys tend to trail girls in academic settings. Boys are also more likely to get in trouble, and more likely to commit crimes as adults.

Some have argued that the differences in outcomes we see for boys has to do with innate differences between boys and girls. We are told that boys are more active learners, that schools have become feminized in a way that hurts boys. 

But there is also substantial evidence that boys are simply raised with different expectations than girls, and these different expectations may be what's leading to different outcomes. 

Which leads me to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. In it, researchers tried to get to the bottom of one of the more well-documented differences between gender groups: That men are more likely to lie than women. 

Photo courtesy of Eddie Hejka

There are a few talks nearly all parents have with their kids. There’s the "birds and the bees" talk, and the "don't do drugs" talk. Some parents also find themselves needing to have the race talk.

We reached out to two mixed race families to get their take on the race talk, and hear some of the parenting challenges that brings. 

Just the 17 of us

There is ample evidence that talking to your children early and often can truly make a difference in their future success. The challenge lies is getting all parents to do it - specifically low-income parents whose children historically start kindergarten with far fewer words than their wealthier counterparts. This article highlights a new program in Rhode Island called Providence Talks, "the most ingenious of several new programs across the country that encourage low-income parents to talk more frequently with their kids."

The Washington Post's Wonkblog has a writeup of new research that shows nearly half of kids in one large study lived in "doubled up" households. That is, these kids lived in house with their mom and/or dad plus another family. The headline describes the high percentage of "doubled up" families as "shocking." But is it really?

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