Studies and data on opportunity in America.

Doran / Flickr

Earlier this week, Jennifer Guerra introduced us to a family struggling to cope with the aftermath of war as part of Michigan Radio’s Beyond the Battlefield series.

The Luu family is just one of thousands trying to deal with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since being diagnosed, John Luu has tried all kinds of treatment for his PTSD: talk therapy, group therapy, art therapy, and even a two month treatment program out of state. But each day can still be a challenge.


Last week, we brought you a story on the theory of white fragility, which was developed by Robin DiAngelo

DiAngelo developed her theory after years of both leading and observing workshops on racism. Her original paper on it runs 17 pages long. She also wrote a book called What Does it Mean to be White. She has a PhD. She's been doing this work for two decades. 
We had about five minutes to tell you the story on our air.  Since then, we've gotten a lot of comments, with many people looking for more context. Some people went ahead and read DiAngelo's paper on white fragility, which is linked to in our original story. 

But there's also a lot more to my interview with Robin DiAngelo than we were able to share on the radio. 


This is the version of our story that aired on Michigan Radio. To hear an extended version of our interview with Robin DiAngelo on the theory of white fragility, click here

Robin DiAngelo was right out of college when she started thinking about it. She'd landed a job leading workshops on racism. And she met a man who became very angry, and pounded on a table. He said white people are the target of discrimination, white people can’t even find jobs anymore.

DiAngelo looked around the office and she saw nothing but white people, all of them with jobs.   

"It was unnerving," she says now. "It was like, 'This is not rooted in any racial reality that is happening, in this room, in this workplace, or in this man’s life.' And yet, these feelings are real. His rage is real. How do we do that?"

We are all products of our experiences, and for today's young people, the Great Recession was one they may never forget. 

In a paper first published in 2013, researchers tried to figure out how the recession changed attitudes among kids who were high school seniors between 2008 and 2010. The paper (which you can read in full here) found that kids graduating high school during the recession were more concerned about inequality and environmental issues than kids who graduated before. They were also less concerned with gaining material wealth. 

New U.S. Census Bureau data show a decline in childhood poverty rates for the first time in 10 years. That's big news. But as Emily Badger points out in her Washington Post article, that's about the only good news coming out of the most recent poverty data gleaned from the Bureau's 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

potomon / flickr

Michigan State University has a new study out about "mindset messages," or how what we believe can change how well we can do.

takomabibelot / flickr

There have been more than a few emails between the State of Opportunity team this week about research or articles with some version of "we need to share this," as the subject.  

Not all of it is made for easy sharing on social networks, so we've developed kind of a backlog that we're going to take care of right here, right now. 

It's not necessarily sunshine and rainbows, but I threw in some cheer at the end. 

How do you make a living on zero income?

One thing we've talked about since the beginning of this project is how many kids in Michigan are growing up in a household that earn no income. It might seem impossible, but it could be a reality for as many as 10% of the group of women who at one time got cash assistance, or "welfare." We've met several of these folks in our reporting.

One of our most popular, and saddest, posts is about the challenges kids face later on in life if they're born to parents who are living in poverty. The disadvantage begins before a child actually enters the world and starts with a lack of prenatal care. Jennifer Guerra and Dustin Dwyer revisit, "The problem with growing up poor" and how it contributes to further inequality gaps later in life.

flickr/Matt Elsberry

The American Dream is an idea that has a long history in this country. For immigrants in the 1800s, America was seen as a land of opportunity, a place where anyone could achieve anything. All that was required was hard work.

There has been a lot of discussion among policymakers in the past few years about how to make the American Dream more of a reality. But at the same time, new research shows that opportunity in America hasn’t changed much in a long, long time. 

So, what does that research tell us about the policy of improving opportunity? 

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In the early 1800s, the newly formed state of Georgia had a lot of new land under its control. The land had been taken mostly from the native Muskogee and Cherokee people, and leaders of the young American state were looking for ways to transfer the land to white settlers. What they ultimately decided on was a series of lotteries. 

The forced transfer of property from native people to white settlers was common in America during the 19th century, but the lottery system was not. It meant that basically any white male adult in Georgia, rich or poor, had the same shot at winning a valuable piece of land. And, while the system itself was unjust and just plain wrong on multiple levels, it also set up an ideal research experiment.

If you're a social scientist looking back, what you see in Georgia in the early 1800s isn't just a lottery, it's a randomized controlled trial. And it allows economists to ask a question that's still relevant today: What happens to a family when it suddenly comes into wealth?