Recent Articles

Noted author cites link between poverty and disparate incarceration rates in MN


In the October 2015 issue of The Atlantic, award-winning journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates has penned an expansive and compelling cover story titled “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” The starting point for this essay is a discussion of the controversial Moynihan Report (officially known as The Negro Family: The Case for National Action). Continue Reading →

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The danger of focusing reform on ‘concentrated poverty’

Shelterforce began, 40 years ago, as a newspaper for tenant organizers. They were legal aid lawyers and similar rabble rousers in small cities in Northern New Jersey, wanting to connect to other folks doing similar work across the country: organizing groups of tenants to stand up to their landlords about horrendous living conditions, fighting for policies that protected tenants. Continue Reading →

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Flexible funding prioritizes children needs, not parents actions

Photo by katerha

There has been considerable talk about early learning lately. We have heard for so long the alarming fact that Minnesota’s children in poverty are not prepared for kindergarten. It is encouraging to see the growing consensus about the end goal, even as the means are subject of spirited debate. We, as providers of early care and education serving some of the poorest children in our state, are now asking that you open your minds and hearts to hear our point of view. Continue Reading →

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Building assets to escape poverty

During the mid-to-late 2000s, America’s sub-prime mortgage crisis served as the major catalyst to a larger financial emergency which nearly brought the global economy to ruins. In the wake of this disaster, poverty and unemployment skyrocketed toward record levels and millions of American’s lost their homes. The Center for Responsible Lending reports that since 2007 nearly 13 million homes have gone into foreclosure in the United States. The regions hardest hit by this epidemic were the South, West, and Midwest, which included the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Detroit and the Twin Cities. Most affected in the Twin Cities were the neighborhoods of North Minneapolis and St. Continue Reading →

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The federal poverty line grossly underestimates actual U.S. poverty

By alternative measures, close to half the country could be defined as ‘economically insecure’ 

In 2001, the NBC award-winning drama series The West Wing aired an episode in which the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposed a new “poverty income index” that would essentially reclassify several million Americans as poor. The rationale on the part of the OMB was that the formula used to measure poverty was outdated and a woefully inadequate reflection of who was poor in America. The new index, they argued, would give millions of citizens access to important government programs and services that they heretofore could not receive. However, the dilemma for the fictional Bartlett administration is that the new index would make it appear to the public that poverty had increased significantly under their watch. During the summer of 2008, art would imitate life in New York as Michael Bloomberg implemented a more meticulous and sophisticated method to measure poverty throughout the city’s five boroughs. Continue Reading →

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The New Poor — how secure are you from this emerging American class?

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 triggered the most ominous economic emergency since the Great Depression nearly 80 years before. During this calamity, a number of new terms and phrases began to enter the general American lexicon. Such terms included credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, mortgage backed securities, over-leveraging, pricing of risk, deregulation, predatory lending, subprime and adjustable rate loans, increased debt burden, the housing bubble, hedge funds, and the shadow banking system. In addition, financial analysts identified the emergence of a new class in America, a group that they dubbed “The New Poor.”

The concept of a “shrinking middle-class” or a “middle-class squeeze” is not a particularly new idea and has been part of our economic dialogue for some time now. Large-scale trends such as outsourcing, massive layoffs, plant closings, downsizing, and corporate mergers have put many middle-class Americans at risk for several years. Continue Reading →

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More men earning poverty-level wages


By Elise Gould

Contributing Writer


In honor of Father’s Day, the Economic Policy Institute looked at the wages of male workers at the prime age for raising young children. While women have always been more likely to earn poverty-level wages than men (wages less than what a full-time, year-round worker needs to sustain a family of four at the official poverty threshold), women have seen some improvement over the last three-and-a-half decades. Their rates of poverty-level wages have declined, especially among those 35 to 44 years old. On the other hand, men between 25 and 44 have seen precipitous increases in the number working at such low wages, more than doubling between 1979 and 2013. This trend has been particularly stark among the younger age group. Continue Reading →

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When a crisis strikes, the poor are most vulnerable

Emergency preparedness means planning to be on your own for at least 72 hours
By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer


Conclusion of a  two-part story
Emergencies of any kind, natural or manmade, are unpredictable and can occur at any time. A previous story in the MSR (“People of color most vulnerable to toxic chemical disasters,” May 15) highlighted a report, “Who’s In Danger? Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters.” The report documented that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to live in “‘vulnerability zones” — areas up to 20 miles in all directions of the facility — where they are less likely to escape from a toxic or flammable chemical emergency. Green For All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri, who was in town in May for a local climate change forum, said that poor people might be the most affected if an emergency takes place. There is a Twin Cities “socially vulnerability index” that

is taken into account, admits Judson Freed, the Ramsey County emergency management director. Continue Reading →

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