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poverty

user Santa Catalina School / flickr

I am no stranger to uniforms. I went to Catholic school for 12 years, so from kindergarten through my senior year of high school I had to wear some iteration of white button-down shirt with plaid skirt, jumper or pants. And you know what? I actually liked it. It was so easy to get ready in the morning; no thought went into what I was wearing or whether I looked cool. So from a vanity standpoint and, let's face it, a laziness standpoint, the utilitarian function of the school uniform was a plus.

Renee McGurk / Flickr

Last week on State of Opportunity, we shared Alex’s story about how hard it is for kids in foster care to get a car, let alone a driver’s license.

Transportation isn’t just an issue in rural areas of the state like Berrien County, where Alex was 20 miles away from everything. It can be a huge barrier for folks who live in the city, too - like Amber Thomas.

State of Opportunity special: Your tax dollars at work

Jul 30, 2015
Chris Potter / Flickr

Michigan spends about $5.6 billion on social welfare programs a year, and that doesn't include health care. 

Even though that's only about 10% of the state's total budget, our passions and our politics are very much at work when we talk about these programs.  

In this hour-long special, we uncover why we get so emotional about social welfare spending. Do these emotions keep us from having policies and programs that would actually help families in Michigan get ahead? 

user ValeryKenski / flickr

Who is poor? Who is low-income? It’s a question our team and others who report on issues of poverty grapple with a lot.  

My news editor and I did a quick search of the newsroom's story database from the past two months, and it turns out Michigan Radio reporters and hosts used the term poor on air twice as often as low-income. So I wanted to know: does it matter which term we use to describe people?

pikturewerk / flickr

Journalists try to stay away from editorializing, but I'm going to break the rule here and say I'm 100 percent comfortable calling CBS's new poverty porn offering, The Briefcase, disgusting. 

Everyone has their guilty pleasures. If you watch The Briefcase (and 6.8 million people did watch the premier episode Wednesday) I'm not saying that we can't be friends anymore.

Hogan / flickr

"Up by your bootstraps," that ubiquitous phrase that has come to function basically as shorthand for the American Dream, first came onto the scene in 1834.  

Linguist Anne Curzan says at that point, it was basically an insult. It described somebody delusional enough to think they could defy the laws of physics and pull themselves up in the air by the very things anchoring them to the ground. 

user Andrew Blight / flickr

Hi there! This is going to be a pretty quick blog post, since I'm knee-deep in documentary tape, but I wanted to share with you a few stories that have resonated with me lately. 

The first is a radio story from This American Life. It's called Three Miles and it's about an exchange program between two high schools: a public school in "the country's poorest congressional district" in the Bronx, and a private school three miles away that costs $43,000 a year to attend.

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.

flickr.com/dbtelford

In 2013, a group of business leaders in Oregon decided to take on an issue that many other business leaders often shy away from: poverty. Not only did they talk about it, they set a strategy, with specific goals in mind.

But the Oregon Business Council didn't take on poverty reduction as an exercise to show what wonderful, caring people they are. The council acted because poverty represents a long-term threat to a healthy business community. 

The Council's 2015 Policy Playbook laid out the case: 

Declining revenues from personal incomes – combined with growing poverty rates – were reducing state resources and increasing funding demands for Medicaid, human services, and corrections. This, in turn, starved funding for education, especially postsecondary education. Declining investments in education reduced opportunities for Oregonians to prepare for well-paying work, which fostered lower incomes and more poverty. This amounted to a self-reinforcing downward cycle – a circle of scarcity.

The Council, through its Oregon Business Plan, has set a goal of reducing the state's poverty rate to less than 10% by 2020. It's an aggressive goal, but if there's any group that can pull it off, business executives may be it. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Chris Reynolds will never forget his first day on campus at the University of Michigan. He and his dad had gotten up super early to drive the nine hours from Sellersville, Pennsylvania to Ann Arbor.

"My father literally just dropped me off and then left," says Reynolds. His dad couldn’t afford a hotel, so they took about an hour to unpack the car, said their goodbyes, and his dad drove off.

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