Thursday, December 10, 2015

Middle class shrinks to barely half of U.S. adults

The American middle class is shrinking. While Americans in the upper-income and lower-income brackets increased, the middle class represents less than half of Americans (from 61% in 1971 to under 50% in 2015). Househould income has substantially shifted from middle-income to upper-income households. Unfortunately, this study confirms that income inequality (the gap between the rich and poor) is widening. Robert Reich argues that the demise of the middle-class has more to do with the concentration of corporate and financial power shaping the economy to benefit the wealthy.
After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Click here to read the full Pew Research Center report, The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground.

Click here to read ProPublica report on debt and the racial wealth gap.

7 Criticisms Of Affirmative Action That Have Been Thoroughly Disproved

While the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates over the future of race in college admissions in the second re-hearing of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Casey Quinlan of ThinkProgress has published an article that debunks seven myths about affirmative action. Justice Scalia even insinuated that black students would attend "lesser" schools where they may be a better match academically. Unfortunately, his comments promotes misunderstanding of why diversity, particularly access, is an educational benefit. Here is the list below (click on the link for further explanation):
  1. Students of color will be treated as undeserving. People will believe they didn’t get admitted on their own merit.
  2. Black and Hispanic students can’t succeed at a selective college.
  3. Asian students are harmed by affirmative action.
  4. Diversity isn’t valuable enough to students to justify upholding the policy.
  5. A perfect system would only admit students of color of low socioeconomic status.
  6. It’s racial discrimination, because if we were fair, we’d admit students based on their academic strength.
  7. We can use affirmative action policies for class to achieve the same results

Friday, October 30, 2015

Civil rights groups: Cops in schools don't make students safer

As many of you have heard, Officer Ben Fields was fired for dragging, slamming, and throwing a 16-year-old black girl from her desk at Spring Valley High School near Columbia, SC. The video footage shocked the world, with reactions ranging from disturbing to disgraceful. The actions of the officer were excessive, unforgivable, and reprehensible. From USA Today:

A viral video of a South Carolina school resource officer slamming a student to the floor of a classroom is focusing attention on the increasing presence of police officers in schools. But cops in classrooms have long been a source of tension.

Richland County, S.C., Sheriff Leon Lott said that an internal investigation found that the force Senior Deputy Ben Fields used to arrest a student who was disrupting a class Monday at Spring Valley High School on Monday was "not based on training or acceptable."

Unfortunately, brutal violence against black girls by officers in secondary schools is not uncommon. From ABC News:

Girls of color, especially black girls, "face much harsher school discipline than their white peers but are excluded from current efforts to address the school-to-prison pipeline," according to "Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected," a recent study from Columbia Law School and the African American Policy Forum. The study, which cites the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), found that, on average, black girls enrolled in New York City and Boston schools are disciplined 10.5 times more than their white counterparts. The rate is even greater than that of black boys, who are disciplined an average of seven times more than white boys, according to the study.

Brutal violence against black girls (and boys) by officers is a civil rights issue. Policymakers and the U.S. Department of Education must address the disproportionate disparities in discipline against students of color. Students should have a right to learn in a safe educational environment.

Related content:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Books about Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education

In graduate school, my specialization was access, equity, and diversity in higher education. I focused on access to higher education policy as well as civic engagement and service-learning. In honor of Careers in Student Affairs Month, I have listed my favorite seminal and updated books about this subjects below. 

This list will be continuously updated annually.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

ACOSA: Why Macro Practice Matters

ACOSA released a highly anticipated essay (full and condensed versions) that every prospective and current social worker should read about the history and future of macro social work practice.

Why Macro Practice Matters By Michael Reisch, University of Maryland

This 2015 essay was commissioned by the Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work initiated by the Association of Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) in 2013. It is an outgrowth of the Special Commission's outreach to macro social work educators and practitioners who were asked to answer the question: "Why Macro Matters" in 2014.

In addition, ACOSA's Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work published a report about five frameworks for macro practice in social work. An abstract can be read here. The five frameworks include (a) Case to Cause, (b) Organizational Management and Leadership, (c) Community Organizing, (d) Policy Practice, and (e) Human Rights.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October is Careers in Student Affairs Month

October is Careers in Student Affairs Month. Are you considering a career in students affairs in higher education? Don't know what a student affairs professional entails? There are many pathways within student affairs, ranging from Greek life to multicultural affairs to student housing.

There are endless possibilities within the student affairs field. Furthermore, attend a conference (ACPA, NASPA, NACA), participate in an internship (NODA, ACUI, ACUHO-I, NUFP) or seek out mentors who work in this inspiring career. The links below provide a snapshot:
Don't forget to view my 2012 post that provides information on careers in student affairs.

Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Professionals

Saturday, October 3, 2015

 Has Child Protective Services Gone Too Far?

Child welfare agencies need major reform when parents are being criminalized for their parenting skills. From The Nation:

A debate sparked by the free-range parenting movement has drawn attention to the threats and intrusions poor, minority families have long endured welfare system hope that the national debate sparked by the free-range parenting movement will draw attention to the threats and intrusions that poor and minority parents endure all the time. Child-neglect statutes, says Martin Guggenheim, a New York University law professor and codirector of the school’s Family Defense Clinic, tend to be extremely vague, giving enormous discretion to social workers. “The reason we’ve tolerated the level of impreciseness in these laws for decades,” he notes, “is that they tend to be employed almost exclusively in poor communities—communities that are already highly regulated and overseen by low-level bureaucrats like the police. For somebody like me, the ‘free-range’ cases that are hitting the paper today are a dream come true, because finally people who otherwise don’t care about this problem are now calling out and saying, ‘Aren’t we going too far here?’”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: 101 Careers in Social Work - Second Edition (2015)

101 Careers in Social Work - Second Edition (2015) by Jessica Ritter, Halaevalu Vaakalahi, and Mary Kiernan-Stern, is a comprehensive career guidebook that highlights the interdisciplinary nature of social work and the different career options available with a social work degree. It builds upon the first edition with updated information and new features such as:
  • Introduction to the social work profession (including a brief history)
  • Differences between social work and other related professions
  • Benefits and challenges of a career in social work
  • Education and licensing requirements for social workers
  • Paying for your social work education
  • Future outlook of the social work profession in the United States
The next section has chapters that cover a myriad of sub-fields within the social work profession. Each chapter includes sections about the sub-field's core competencies and skills, educational and licensing requirements, best and challenging aspects of the job, compensation and employment outlook, self-assessment checklist to see if the job is right for you, and recommended readings and websites. The beginning has the most common career paths (e.g., child welfare, school social work, gerontology, health care, and mental health/addictions) and explores emerging fields that would be of particular interest to macro practice social workers, such as:
  • Crisis intervention
  • Criminal justice and the legal arena
  • International social work and human rights
  • Poverty and homelessness
  • Politics and public policy
  • Community practice
  • Research in academia
  • Leadership in human service organizations and much more!
The authors are supporters of dual degrees for social work students who want to pursue a rigorous course of study that draws upon a diverse academic disciplines/fields such as public health, public policy, law, business administration, ministry, educational leadership, or urban planning. I highly recommend this new edition to any social work student or practitioner who wants to explore what they can do with a degree in social work. The possibilities are limitless!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Study confirms that white students who misbehave get medicine/therapy, black kids arrested/suspended

This past month, several news articles, such as the Daily Kos, have reported data on racial disparities in school suspensions. White kids who misbehave often receive therapy or medicine. It would take a severe violation like bringing a weapon into school for a White kid to receive suspension. In contrast, Black kids who misbehave are more frequently suspended or arrested. Unfortunately, this type of treatment quickly funnels students of color into the juvenile justice system. As a result, schools and the solutions they pose to common problems are increasingly separate and unequal. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by elected officials and school administrators. For more information, check the links below:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Freep: Concentrated poverty spikes in Metro Detroit communities

Metro Detroit has not recovered well from the Great Recession of 2007-2010. The Southeast Michigan region has more concentrated poverty than any period in history. From the Detroit Free Press:

Concentrated poverty has exploded in metro Detroit over the past 15 years, especially among minority groups, according to a new report.
In Wayne County, half of all its residents who are poor now live in areas of high concentration of poverty, the second-highest rate in the U.S. In Detroit, the number of census tracts where more than 40% of people are in poverty more than tripled, from 51 to 184. And the high concentrations of poverty are now pushing out to Detroit suburbs such as Warren, Dearborn, Oak Park and Southfield.
In Wayne County, the percentage of African Americans who are poor living in areas of high poverty jumped from 18% in 2000 to 58% in 2013, says the report by the Century Foundation. That's the second-highest percentage in the U.S., after metro Syracuse, N.Y. Nationally, the figure is 25.2%.
Related article: Census bureau: Detroit is poorest big city in U.S. (Detroit News)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Slate: Persistent Racism in Housing is a Tax on Blackness

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, redlinng is "is the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor. While discriminatory practices existed in the banking and insurance industries well before the 1930s, the New Deal's Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) instituted a redlining policy by developing color-coded maps of American cities that used racial criteria to categorize lending and insurance risks." The creator of redlining was Homer Hoyt (1895-1984), who was a renowned land economist and real estate appraiser. He conducted path-breaking research on land economics, developed an influential approach to the analysis of neighborhoods and housing markets. His approach combined multiple factors (e.g., condition of dwelling, transportation access, proportion of non-whites) using overlay mapping. The approach enabled the FHA to assess the risk a neighborhood posed for mortgage lenders. Unfortunately, this groundbreaking approach led to the institutionalization of racialized neighborhood vitality assessments by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Jamelle Bouie of Slate describe the history of persistent racial discrimination in housing in America:

Hoyt, as chief economist of the Federal Housing Authority, wanted to improve the accuracy of real-estate appraisals so that an affiliated agency—the Home Owner’ Loan Corporation, established by the Home Owners’ Refinancing Act of 1933—could standardize the process for making mortgage loans, avoid undue risks, and bail out homeowners who lost their homes in the economic crash. Working with Hoyt at the FHA, the HOLC would map cities and divide neighborhoods into various risk categories that were based on his ethnic hierarchy and coded accordingly. A “green” neighborhood was white, affluent, Anglo-Saxon, and appropriately Protestant. A “blue” one had less desirable whites—Jews, Irish, and Italians—but was stable and upwardly mobile. A “yellow” one had undesirable, often working-class whites, and a “red” one was predominantly black or Mexican, regardless of wealth or class. And in these “redlined” areas, loans were either expensive or nonexistent, forcing families to rely on speculators and private sales by unscrupulous homeowners.

Under this system, whites had more flexibility in terms of where to live in a city or metropolitan region. If the individual or family were of the right stock, they could live anywhere in the "green" or "blue" neighborhoods. Additional benefits included access to mortgages, lower interest rates, and better neighborhood conditions (i.e., safety, amenities, better schools, and access to jobs). Under this system, whites are perceived as good neighbors aka the "norm") while blacks are perceived as bad neighbors (aka undesirables). Why do Americans accept this view as fact? It's due to an outdated racist housing policy developed by Holt and the FHA that still dictates racial residential patterns. As a result, race has become a proxy of neighborhood value. Bouie continues:

This is obviously racist, but it’s also unsurprising. As the Hoyt story shows, this discrimination is in the DNA of American real estate. For most of the last century, lenders and brokers—including national realtor organizations—used race as a proxy for neighborhood value. “Appraisal manuals,” writes Pietila, “continued to repeat Hoyt’s hierarchy until the 1960s … implying that the groups lowest on the ladder were detrimental to housing values.” These manuals also pushed realtors and homeowners to use private agreements—called covenants—that forbade sale to “undesirable” neighbors.

Though racial covenants and blockbusting are illegal today, realtors are using subtle racial methods to keep neighborhoods "white" via economics pricing home values higher in predominately white neighborhoods and a widespread urban revitalization tool called gentrification, which can lead to displacement (long-time, low income residents are forced to move out because of rising rents). Low-income residents are forced to move further away to neighborhoods with fewer amenities and less transit-friendly.

A recent WBEZ article in Chicago revealed that there is no concentrated pockets of whitewhite poverty in Chicago. Yet the map easily points out concentrated pockets of black (and Latino to a lesser extent) poverty in Chicago. Low-income and middle-class whites left Chicago for the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s when the rents began to increase. Blacks could not leave the ghettoes since racist realtors refused to grant mortgages for blacks to live in better neighborhoods. Thus, a century of racialized housing policy created the pockets of concentrated black poverty in Chicago. Blacks are not poor because they want to; it's because institutional policies isolated them to primarily the South Side of Chicago.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Featured Reference Books about Macro Social Work

As students prepare for a new academic year, I have provided a list of featured books about macro social work. I hope that this list is useful to prospective students, current students, and practitioners in the field. If I am missing a reference, please post a comment. I will add the book after further review. 

General Reference

Community Organization and Human Services Management

Policy Practice

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Featured Resource about Macro Social Work Practice

Online MSW Programs has a comprehensive featured article about macro social work, Introductory Guide to Macro Social Work Practice. It provides an overview on careers, entry into macro social work, and why macro social work is important to the field. Examples of macro social work careers featured in the article include the following:
  • Policy advocates and analysts
  • Community and health services specialists
  • Program development specialist
  • Research associates and analysts
  • Community educators
  • Community outreach specialists

Friday, July 31, 2015

Detroit Free Press: Is a college degree a lost cause these days?

Policymakers are debating whether a liberal arts education or skills-based training for high-demand jobs is the future of postsecondary education in the United States. Most pundits agree that a liberal arts degree no longer cuts it in today’s global economy. But is this viewpoint really true? Brian Dickerson asks the readers to consider these questions:

But should a perfect match between employers’ needs and graduates’ skills be the ultimate objective of higher education in Michigan? Or, to put it another way: When is training workers for specific jobs the responsibility of colleges, universities and taxpayers, and when is it a cost that should be borne mostly, or exclusively, by employers themselves?

Fareed Zakaria, author of In Defense of Liberal Education, argues that favoring job-specific training over a broad-based curriculum (keyword: well-rounded) is not only shortsighted and “un-American.”

The solution is not that more students need to major in marketing or engineering, Zakaria, argues, “but that their liberal education should be more structured and demanding,” with greater emphasis on reading and writing.

Zakaria, a native of India who emigrated to the U.S. to attend Yale University, also warns that “Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are still oriented around memorization and test-taking.” He credits the Asian model for generating impressive test scores, but adds that it’s “not conducive to thinking, problem-solving or creativity” — the skills that have allowed American workers to maintain their productivity edge.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

NYTimes: Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations

Since the Charleston massacre at Emanuel AME Church, there has been a growing divide on race. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, there are stark differences in discrimination and race relations between whites and blacks. Furthermore, most Americans think race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, and blacks hold a particularly negative view of the nation’s racial climate – the worst since the country’s first black president took office in 2009.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.

How the Poll Was ConductedJULY 23, 2015 The swings in attitude have been particularly striking among African-Americans. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, nearly 60 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad, but that number was cut in half shortly after he won. It has now soared to 68 percent, the highest level of discontent among blacks during the Obama years and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The New Social Worker: Achieving Racial Equity through Social Work

The New Social Worker magazine has a new column on racial equity called Achieving Racial Equity through Social Work. The column focuses on three principles: Undoing Racism, Learning from History, and Sharing Culture. The column is written by an alliance of anti-racist social workers from the Northeast who are committed to dismantling structural racism in American society.

Update: As of October 2015, there is a new article to the series called Developing Leadership & Maintaining Accountability.

Update: As of July 2016, there is a new article to the series called Gatekeeping and Manifestations of Racism.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Low-Income Students and Pell Recipients Underrepresented at Top Colleges

The concept of "undermatching" has gained a lot of attention in the media. That is, high-achieving students from low-income students are less likely to apply to (or even enroll in) highly selective colleges and universities. This phenomenon has major consequences: it isolates lower-income students from opportunities they lead to upward mobility-- higher salaries and expanded social networks with students from privileged backgrounds. Furthermore, the value of the Pell Grant has eroded over the decades as the cost of tuition has skyrocketed. A Pell Grant Pell is a partial scholarship provided by the federal government up to $5,775 awarded to students from the lower 40 percent of American household incomes. The future of the Pell Grant is precarious because the amount alone does not cover tuition and fees at top institutions. We need better policies that ensure that lower-income students have access to the same educational opportunities (and the means to achieve them). Otherwise, low-income students are being further left behind.

From the Hechinger Report:

Pell Grants were created by the Johnson Administration through the Higher Education Act of 1965 to encourage colleges to provide ladders of educational opportunity that would help both low-income students and our larger society.

Sadly, 50 years later, the value of the Pell Grants has eroded greatly, and lower income students are dramatically underrepresented at America’s finest institutions — from Ivies to state flagship institutions to top private colleges — where the graduation rates are highest and the financial aid packages strongest. One study showed that only 14 percent of American undergraduates at the top 250 institutions come from families making less than $50,000 per year.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

FDR and the Economic Bill of Rights

During World War II, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed an economic bill of rights that would ensure equality in the pursuit of happiness. During his presidency, FDR was committed to an economic and social recovery plan through the New Deal programs. He believed that social and economic rights embedded in the U.S. Constitution would guarantee security for all Americans. The eight specific rights included:
  • Employment, with a living wage
  • Food, clothing and leisure
  • Farmers' rights to a fair income
  • Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
  • Housing
  • Medical care
  • Social security
  • Education
In an era where the gap between the rich and poor has widened to unprecedented levels, this country need the economic bill rights more than ever. Watch his full presidential radio speech on the economic bill of rights below:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sociology and Civil Unrest in Baltimore

The Everyday Sociology Blog has a recent post on the coverage of civil unrest in Baltimore. While the news media generally focuses on the violent aspects, Karen Sternheimer reminds us to look at the situation from a sociological perspective.

While there are many explanations that can help us understand these events, here are some of the connections my students made, drawing from what they learned about social inequality as well as the criminal justice system:
  1. A sense that there are no consequences for police brutality
  2. The recent history of mass incarceration and the criminalization of low-income people
  3. Joblessness, poverty, and limited economic opportunity
  4. Coverage of violence drowns out legitimate grievances
  5. Racism hasn’t disappeared

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Fight for $15 and Unionization for Working Families

Last month, workers from all kinds of industries came out to protest, support, and express their sentiments on why higher wages and unionization are necessary for working families. Poor working conditions, insufficient pay, lack of benefits, reliance on government assistance, and unpredictable work schedules have psychological and economic costs for working families. The lack of economic security is the reason why workers are voicing out their stories of hardship and seeking economic justice.

People throughout the US sent a clear message on April 15th that in addition to better wages, people also need better jobs — jobs that provide employees with regular schedules, paid sick leave, dependable hours, benefits and respect.

Several organizations are now stepping forward to act on that message at a national level. On April 29th, the Center for Community Change, Working Families Organization, Jobs With Justice, Center for Popular Democracy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and dozens of local grassroots partners are coming together to launch Putting Families First: Good Jobs for All. It’s a major economic initiative to reinvest in low-income communities of color and bring jobs — good jobs — to everyone.

Related Content:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Robert Reich: How Just In Time Scheduling Is Making Workers' Lives Hell

If you have never heard of this term, just-in-time scheduling is where employers in service industries (think retail and restaurants) can alert low-wage and part-time employees up to half an hour (!) before their scheduled shift to determine whether or not they are needed. Due to technological advances and high-speed internet, employers use "workplace optimization systems" to determine weather, traffic, sales, and nearby event patterns to predict customer demand. While this process may save money for the employer, it is costly for workers who plan their schedules around commuting and child-care needs. To arrive to work only to be sent home because you are not needed places a considerable economic burden on working families, who are disproportionately communities of color. The decline of steady jobs with regular and predictable work schedules has created a system where employees' economic security is at its lowest point. This nation has reverted back to old practices (poor working conditions, insufficient pay, and lack of benefits) that have not been witnessed since the Great Depression. According to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, low-wage and part-time workers, who have no control over their erratic schedules and monthly income, are at the mercy of their employers in the "flexible" labor market.

Robert Reich describes the pitfalls of just-in-scheduling in this way:

These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or 10 minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Higher Education: Career in Admissions

Have you ever wondered what is it like to work in admissions? Whether you gained experience as an ambassador or campus tour guide, there are several things you need to know about a career in admissions. Prospective students talk to admissions counselors to learn more about a college or university's programs and admissions procedures. There are several advantages and disadvantages of working in admissions. (Note: This post is not about careers in financial aid, which has a different set of responsibilities.)

  • A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for an entry-level position. (Professional schools like public health and social work may require a master's degree in the field).
  • Can advance into higher administrative positions (director roles require a master's degree).
  • Positions are available in institutions of all sizes (from community colleges to universities) and types (professional schools, public colleges, private colleges, etc.)
  • May enjoy reduced work hours during non-peak recruitment season (summer months).
  • Opportunities for professional development are available (both on-campus and conferences).
  • Some employers require previous experience in admissions.
  • Mobility (across schools) is a key factor, though not required, for advancement.
  • Low salaries lead to high turnover (The average admissions counselors stays in their position for three years.)
  • May require extensive travel (overnight, regional, and cross-country).
  • High volume of work requires multi-tasking and flexibility.
  • May require long hours of work during peak recruitment season (evenings and weekends).
  • Budgetary cutbacks may stagnate funds for hiring and retention of these positions.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in key segments of admissions.
Are you an aspiring admissions counselor or coordinator?  Check out these links below to see if admissions is the right career path for you.

Hiring in Admissions (August 7, 2009) - Inside Higher Ed

Secret Lives of Admissions Officers (December 8, 2009) - The Daily Beast

Confessions of a College Admissions Officer (February 20, 2009) - BuzzFeed

Getting Into the Admission Office (April 8, 2013) -Inside Higher Ed

Career Paths for Admissions Officers, A Survey Report (July 2014) - National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Robert Reich: The Bankruptcy of Detroit and the Division of America

Robert Reich--economist, professor, and activist--published a grim blog post about what happens if Americans continue to segregate by income and place. When cities lack a mixture of incomes and become increasingly poor, city services and quality of living decline. Detroit is ground zero for that reality--when the city residents, mostly poor and elderly communities of color, must deal with inadequate services while wealthier white Americans have the luxury to ignore social problems.

Detroit is the largest city ever to seek bankruptcy protection, so its bankruptcy is seen as a potential model for other American cities now teetering on the edge.

But Detroit is really a model for how wealthier and whiter Americans escape the costs of public goods they’d otherwise share with poorer and darker Americans.


Related Content: A Foreclosure Conveyor Belt - The Continuing Depopulation of Detroit

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

ThinkProgress: Families of Color Likely to Remain in Poverty Even If They Work

According to ThinkProgress, families are color are likely to remain poor even if they work. Almost half of minority working families are poor or low-income. More than a third of African-American and Latino working families make less than $32,000 a year. In contrast, just 13 percent of white and Asian-American families find themselves in that same income bracket.

Some people argue that the poor are poor because they lack a work ethic. But hard work doesn’t mean American families can pay the bills. Nearly a third of the country’s 32.6 million working families, or 10.6 million, were low-income in 2013, or had incomes that fell below 200 percent of the poverty line, according to a new report from The Working Poor Families Project.

And race plays a huge role. Working families headed by people of color are twice as likely to wind up in poverty anyway as compared with white families. The report finds that nearly half, or 47 percent, of working families headed by racial or ethnic minorities are poor or low income, compared to just 23 percent of white families. Breaking it down further, 55 percent of working Latino and nearly half of African-American and Native American families who work are low income, but less than a quarter of white families are.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Decline of the American Dream in the U.S.

Everyone around the world knows the American Dream. According to The Cheat Sheet, a USA Today content partner, the American Dream is "a concept that doesn't have a strict definition, but is typically explained as the ability to improve one's standing in society through hard work and education, and ultimately share a piece of America's prosperity with a home, property, and other basic necessities." We learn the classic "rags-to-riches" Horatio Alger story in classroom where impoverished boys rise from their humble backgrounds to middle-class security through honesty, determination, and hard work. While most of us take it for granted that anyone can achieve upward social mobility, the American Dream has become less realistic today. Economic mobility has stunted for most Americans due to several factors: stagnant wage growth, increase in low-wage jobs, the rising cost of living and health care, mounting student debt, and the decline of organized labor. The American Dream that we proudly cherish has become more unattainable than ever, particularly among historically disenfranchised communities of color.

That is, the American Dream is now easier to attain for people who live outside of America than those who live in it. Or, another way to put it is that economic mobility has been stunted in the U.S. As far back as 2004 the progressive think tank The Century Foundation argued that "recent evidence shows that there is much less mobility in the United States than most people assume," and that "rags to rags and riches to riches are now the norm in this country to a greater degree than in many other developed nations."

It goes on to say: "Our current education system, anti-discrimination laws, and other public policy tools that aim to give the children of poor parents a fair shot at a high income are not getting the job done. We may all believe in the American Dream, but we have a lot of work to do if we are to make that dream a reality."

Related Content: Why is Social Welfare So Expensive? (Cheat Sheet)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Obama Announces Student Aid Bill of Rights

Earlier this week, President Obama recently announced at the Georgia Institute of Technology, will make it a little easier for borrowers to stay current on their debt payments and to file complaints against the companies that manage their loans. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, his memorandum does the following:
  • Help borrowers keep track of their student loans.
  • Make it easier for borrowers to file complaints involving their student aid.
  • Help borrowers remain in income-based repayment plans.
It will NOT overhaul the student-loan debt collection process or provide an escape hatch for defaulters. Furthermore, no one knows how the government will specifically "raise standards" for debt collectors. The memorandum requires the U.S. Department of Education to "ensure that the debt-collection process for defaulted federal student loans is fair [and] transparent, charges reasonable fees," and "effectively assists borrowers in meeting their obligations and returning to good standing." The expected consumer protections include "higher standards for student-loan servicing," including "enhanced disclosures" and "strengthened consumer protections." The only protection listed is ensuring that servicers apply prepayments to loans with the highest interest rates first. More information will be made public as soon as the reports are released on private debt collectors.

Click here for more information about the Student Aid Bill of Rights from the White House.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Study: Elite Degrees Offer Little Advantage for African American Students

A research study from the University of Michigan found that a college degree from a highly selective college or university offers little advantage for African American graduates. White job applicants with a degree from an elite university had the highest response rate (nearly 18 percent), followed by black candidates with a degree from an elite university (13 percent). White candidates with a degree from a less-selective university had nearly the same response rate (more than 11 percent) as a black candidate from an elite university. Black job applicants with a degree from a less-selective university had the lowest response rate (less than 7 percent).

"These racial differences suggest that a bachelor's degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market," said Gaddis, a postdoctoral scholar in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Policy Scholars program at the School of Public Health. "Thus, both discrimination and differences in human capital contribute to racial economic inequality."

Furthermore, race results in a double penalty. When employers responded to black candidates, it was for jobs with lower starting salaries and lower prestige than those of white peers. Black applicants received responses for jobs with a listed salary about $3,000 less than white candidates.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Social Work Theme 2015: Social Work Paves the Way for Change

The 2015 Social Work Theme is "Social Work Paves the Way for Change."

From NASW:

2015 marks a special year for the social work community. The nation will commemorate National Social Work Month in March and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2015. NASW’s goal during Social Work Month and throughout 2015 will be to educate the public about how social workers and the association have brought about major positive social changes, improved the lives of individuals and families, and will continue to do so in the future.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Five African American Pioneers in the Social Services

In celebration of Black History Month, Social Work@Simmons published a website commemorating five African American social work pioneers. They include Mary Church Terrell, George Edmund Haynes, Thyra J. Edwards, Lester Blackwell Granger, and Dorothy I. Height. They were actively involved in civil rights, welfare reform, and service provision within their communities. They also became national figures, creating and leading organizations that enacted socially-just policies and programs that met the needs of the disadvantaged. Their contributions improved the lives of millions of people across the nation and around the world.

African American Pioneers in Social Services, SocialWork@Simmons

African American Pioneers in Social Service, SocialWork@Simmons

African American Pioneers in Social Service, SocialWork@Simmons

African American Pioneers in Social Service, SocialWork@Simmons

African American Pioneers in Social Service, SocialWork@Simmons

TONIGHT: #MacroSW with Charles E. Lewis -- Social Workers in Congress in Pursuit of Social Justice

#MacroSW will host a Twitter chat tonight at 9:00 PM EST featuring Charles E. Lewis, Jr., President of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP). Lewis discuss what the social work profession's response should be for engaging Congress in pursuit of social justice. It will explore the following questions:
  • What motivated you to become a social worker?
  • Do you know there is a Congressional Social Work Caucus and why it was created?
  • Do you know how the Social Work Reinvestment Act will help the profession?
  • What can social workers do to influence federal policy?
  • Have you considered a career in policy?
  • Can social workers make a difference if we were more politically active?
  • What social worker inspires you the most?

Related Link: Congressional Social Work Caucus

Thursday, February 12, 2015

TONIGHT: #MacroSW – Everything You Wanted to Know About Macro Social Work But Were Afraid to Ask

Tonight, #MacroSW will host a Twitter chat tonight at 9:00 PM EST called "Everything You Wanted to Know About Macro Social Work But Were Afraid to Ask." It will cover these topics:
  • What is macro social work?
  • How can I learn about macro social work practice?
  • How can I connect with others doing macro social work?
  • What inspires you about macro social work?
  • What do you wish others knew about macro social work practice?
@karanzgoda will be hosting the chat. Karen Zgoda compiled a list of resources about macro social work on her blog.

UPDATE (02/13/15): Click here for the #MacroSW Twitter transcript.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NYTimes: It Is Expensive to be Poor

Everyone knows that the poor struggle to make ends meet. However, not many people realize how more expensive it can be poor than wealthy. Since state and local municipalities often rely on regressive taxes for funding, low-income families must pay a larger share of their income than wealthier people. In sum, low-income families are the hardest hit financially. Regressive taxes and predatory lending practices put low-income families severely at risk in falling back into poverty.

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”

This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.

“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.

Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.

So, as the Pew report pointed out, “more than half of the least secure group reports receiving at least one type of means-tested government benefit.”

Related links:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Whitney M.Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights (1989)

Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights (1989) by Nancy J. Weiss is an autobiography of the late social worker and civil right activist during the War on Poverty movement. Weiss stated in the epilogue that "Whitney Young spent his life making the needs and interests of black Americans comprehensible and compelling to the whites who had the power to do something about them. Consummate politician, salesman, and interpreter, he goaded and challenged the white establishment to redress the effects of segregation, discrimination, and poverty" (p. 230). This classic autobiography also contains black-and-white photographs of Young's time in the army, civil rights movement and Kennedy and Johnson administration.

As executive director of the National Urban League, Young pushed major corporations to hire more blacks and co-organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. To improve the economic conditions of African Americans at the time, he proposed a domestic Marshall Plan that would rebuild cities, reduce poverty, and provide job training programs to millions of Americans. This plan, which called for $145 billion in spending over 10 years, was partially incorporated into President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. Young described his proposals for integration, social programs, and affirmative action in his two books, To Be Equal (1964) and Beyond Racism (1969). Despite his reluctance to enter politics himself, Young was an important advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. In 1968, Young refused a Cabinet-level position in Nixon's administration, believing that he could accomplish more through the Urban League.

For a documentary on Whitney Young's life, click the video below:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Randall Kennedy on Black America's Promised Land

In the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine, Randall Kennedy composed an essay on why he remains an optimist on race relations. Pessimism is rampant in the black community with the grand jury decisions and persistent economic inequality but Kennedy reminds us why we should be thankful with the progress that has been made since the civil rights movement. With Black History Month less than a month away, I thought this piece was worth sharing on this blog.

Slumping morale among blacks, however, is attributable to more than frustration with Obama’s enemies; it also reflects frustration with the president himself. Although the overwhelming majority of politically active blacks supported Obama in 2008 and 2012 and continue to rally behind him defensively, an appreciable number feel let down. They maintain that he has been altogether too fearful of being charged with racial favoritism and has done too little to educate the public about the peculiar racial hazards that African Americans routinely face.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Schlissel: University of Michigan needs plan to increase campus diversity

Good news for black students and advocates who demand transformative change in the compositional diversity of the student body. For too long, the black student population at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the flagship public university, has hovered dangerously around 4 percent, which is below the state's black population at 14 percent. From The Detroit News:

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says he will ask his 19 deans to come up with plans to diversify their departments as part of a measurable effort to make the campus more diverse.

And that diversity goes beyond race and ethnicity, he said.

"The reason why it's so darn important — beyond the question of being fair to all the citizens that we serve here as a public university — is we cannot be academically excellent without being diverse," Schlissel told The Detroit News in an interview Friday. "So much of the learning that goes on here comes with engaging one another."

Schlissel said he plans to develop a strategy aimed at re-energizing the university's efforts to diversify the student body, faculty and the staff.

Part of that strategy will include asking the university's deans next month to come up with diversity plans. A baseline will be established to measure the current state of each college.