How rules and regulation can  shape opportunity.

It's a little on the economist/wonky side, but this column puts together some compelling research that what is driving the wage gap and rising income inequality is not that enough people aren't educated and able to get good jobs. Instead, it might be that too many people are under-employed and that middle class jobs don't pay enough. And then there's this zinger. “There is good reason to resist the proposition that education and technology are solely responsible for growing inequality.It provides political leaders an excuse to cast the problem as beyond the reach of policy.”

chart showing how much SNAP benefits will fall after Nov. 1
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

At the end of this week food stamp benefit levels are going to fall for the 1.75 million people in Michigan who use the program. A boost from federal stimulus money had bolstered the program, but will expire November 1. There are no plans to use state funds to make up the difference.

Just how much will the cuts amount to? As broken down by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) a family of four will see cuts equaling at least a couple of meals. 

Head Start teachers are not federal employees, but Head Start is funded by the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services pays for thousands of Head Start programs around the country by awarding thousands of grants. Most of the programs that depend on these grants will be fine during the shutdown; their funding is already in place for the year. But in 23 programs across 11 states, the funding is not in place. It was supposed to come through on Oct. 1st, the day the government shut down. NPR's Audie Cornish talked to the director of one of those 23 programs to find out how families have been affected.

Clearing up misperceptions about welfare state-by-state

Sep 17, 2013

The insidious thing about myths and stereotypes is their persistence. Like a stain on the public discourse, sometimes no amount of research, data, insight, or concrete evidence to the contrary will change how some people think about living in poverty in the U.S. Sometimes even falling into poverty---an unexpected shift in personal circumstances---doesn't change how one thinks about the causes and consequences of not having enough to eat, inadequate shelter, under- or unemployment, and lack of education. Today's release of the 2012 poverty numbers seems like a good opportunity to review some myths about poverty. The Urban Institute has done just that. Have a look and tell us: what ideas do you have about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) that aren't necessarily true? What facts surprise you?

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

When airlines and travelers complained of long flight delays due to the sequester, Congress jumped into action and passed a quick resolution to end the delays. Meanwhile the millions of low-income families who lives are being impacted by the sequester continue to wait for Congress’ help.

The cuts keep rolling in

Grover Norquist does it. The NRA does it. Now, the Shriver Center tracks how each member of Congress votes on poverty issues. Check out your representative by clicking the link below.

Balancing the budget on the backs of... guess who?

Apr 9, 2013

President Barack Obama will be releasing his budget tomorrow. Already, organized labor and others who side with the President more often than not are upset with cuts he's willing to make (likely to be around $200 billion worth). 

The Republican leadership in congress isn't happy with the budget either. Most Republicans don't want to raise taxes in order to help raise revenue and decrease the deficit. 

Accusations the budget is getting balanced on the back of seniors, children and people in poverty can seem like tired political rhetoric. But, those are the people that disproportionately rely on government services.

So as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out in a handy chart, for the last few years it's true these groups have borne the brunt of the budget battle.  

Your participation and insightful guests made for a spirited discussion about themes ranging from power to policy, but really the question was if all kids have an equal shot at an American dream. (Spoiler alert: none of the guests think all kids have an equal shot.)

Listen to parts of the show below. If you want to listen to the whole thing, here you go.

Shannon K. / flickr

Today at at 3 p.m State of Opportunity is having a call in show on Michigan Radio. Tune in or stream it live.  

Our focus will be on structures and policies that make it hard for Michigan's children to get ahead. What's keeping us from understanding the lives of low-income families? And what policies are keeping the cycle of poverty going. 

You can join the conversation about poverty, privilege and political power with local and national experts. Here's the crew that we'll be talking with:

  • Doak Bloss, Health Equity and Social Justice Coordinator at the Ingham County Health Department.
  • Erin Currier, Director of the Economic Mobility Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.
  • Linwood Cousins, Director and Professor at the School of Social Work at Western Michigan University
  • David Callahan, Senior fellow at Demos and co-author of the report, Stacked Deck
  • State Rep. State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, representing 6th district SW Detroit. 

Call in with your questions (866-255-2762) or email us in advance (michiganradioquestion@umich.edu).

Dustin Dwyer

We think of scholarships as a way to help more students go to college. But there’s a new scholarship program in Michigan that has nothing to do with college. It offers scholarships to babies.

If you have a baby and you want to have a job, or you need to have a job, you have to find childcare. And childcare costs money—thousands of dollars a year.

If your income is below the federal government’s poverty line—about $24,000 a year for a family of four—the federal government will help you pay for childcare. But if you’re at, say, $28,000 a year, you’re ineligible.