Eva Petoskey

Suicide is a major public health problem for American Indians. The suicide rate for American Indian teenagers in particular is 2.5 times higher than the national average. I took a trip over the summer to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Reservation in Suttons Bay to talk with folks in the community about the issue.

When I visited the reservation, it was rainy, no sun in sight, but that didn't stop a couple thousand people from making the trek to the reservation for the annual powwow. The Anishinaabe word is "Jiingtamok." 

Terry Johnston/Wikimedia Commons

A recent research brief from the Brookings Institution takes a look at the startling rise of concentrated poverty in America over the past decade or so. 

The brief finds that the number of neighborhoods in the U.S. where at least 40% of residents are considered poor has risen by more than 70% since 2000. That is to say, poverty has become more concentrated in certain areas. That's significant because the Brookings researchers say people living in areas of concentrated poverty face a "double burden" – their own poverty, and the poverty of those around them:

The challenges of poor neighborhoods – including worse health outcomes, higher crime rates, failing schools, and fewer job opportunities – make it that much harder for individuals and families to escape poverty and often perpetuate and entrench poverty across generations. These factors affect not only the residents and communities touched by concentrated disadvantage, but also the regions they inhabit and the ability of those metro areas to grow in inclusive and sustainable ways.

The problem of concentrated poverty has been spreading to places you might not expect: the suburbs. Brookings finds that the number of neighborhoods with at least 40% of people living in poverty has grown by 150% in the suburbs since 2000. That's about triple the rate of growth in urban areas during the same time. 

And there's one metropolitan area in Michigan where the rise of suburban poverty stands out: Grand Rapids. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Gang life is a reality for a lot of kids who live in poor neighborhoods. There are parts of Detroit, for example, where gangs run the blocks. Here's the story of one 17-year old's experience in and out of a gang.  

How it all began

Alberto was just eight years old when he witnessed his first gang fight; it broke out on the sidewalk in front of his house. Just a few years later and Alberto himself was in a gang. He said it started out pretty innocently, just some friends hanging out, fooling around. "But then," explains Alberto, "it starts getting more serious. Oh this guy is fighting our home boy, let’s go help him out. You’re like, ok, he’s my friend, he’s been there for me, let me go do the same thing for him. Then you fight, you make new enemies. And it just progresses after a while."

I caught up with Alberto at an after-school program where a lot of former gang members hang out. When he first started telling me about his time in a gang, the first thing I wanted to know was: How violent did it get? 

"I had about three friends killed, one or two family members shot at," says Alberto. There were constant shoot outs in front of his house, too. "I grew up with a lot of violence around, so [I'm] hoping that my brothers don’t go thru the same thing as me is a big hope for me."

The invisible poor

May 1, 2014
Jeff Stvan / flickr

I remember the first time I saw a homeless person. I was seven years old and on vacation in New York City with my family. This was New York back in the '80s, before Disney invaded midtown Manhattan. It was grittier; subway cars were covered in graffiti, prostitutes worked openly on the streets, homeless guys squeegeed your car windshield with old newspapers hoping for a tip. 

My family and I were walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and there he was, the first homeless person I had ever seen up close, sprawled out in front of Trump Tower. I remember it clearly: the flattened cardboard box underneath him, the megaphone, which I think he was using as a pillow, the empty coffee can at his feet. He couldn't have picked a better spot, a guy who has nothing, sitting in front of a skyscraper owned by a man who has everything. Even the glass windows on Trump Tower look like they're made of gold.

Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race for Results report


This week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a national report that caught our eye. 

The report is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count series. Kids Count tracks a number of indicators – things like birthweight, school test scores, poverty level, and college attendance.

This new report includes 12 indicators in all, and they’ve been combined to come up with an index score for overall child outcomes. Those scores were then broken down by race, and each state was ranked.

For Michigan, there was a surprise. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

In our latest documentary, The Education Gap, we talk about the disparities between high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools. I urge you to listen to the full documentary if you haven' t yet because there's a lot to unpack there. Meantime here's a quick description of the two schools we featured during the hour:

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?

Time poverty

Sep 3, 2013
secuble / Flickr

Time is a limited commodity for everyone. The rich, the poor, and almost everyone in between can be over scheduled and overtired. If you are a regular person, you call this ‘life.’ If you are an academic, you call this ‘time poverty.’ 

Gabe Photos / Flickr

Almost exactly two years ago, I crossed the Atlantic and took up residence in a land of rainstorms and rainbows to do a Masters in Social Policy. I landed in England in part because I was interested in social issues, and I wanted to learn more about how different governments address these challenges.

Last week, after taking my final exam, I got on an airplane to head to Michigan and start working with State of Opportunity.

Approximately 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 have received a diagnosis of A.D.H.D at some point in their lives. According to this New York Times article, that's a 53 percent rise in the past decade. And which group tends to get diagnosed the most? Poor kids. Children covered by Medicaid "have among the highest rates of A.D.H.D. diagnoses: 14 percent for school-age children, about one-third higher than the rest of the population."