The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include the latest on poverty data, health and financial security.
Editor's Note: This edition of Asset Building News Week was authored by our new fall intern, Elliot Schreur. Elliot is a Master's of Public Policy student at the George Washington University here in D.C. Please join us in welcoming Elliot!
On Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released its highly anticipated data on poverty for the year 2011. The Guardian has released an interactive map detailing the poverty figures, for the visual learners among us. Surprising to some analysts, the data did not reveal any statistically significant change in the poverty numbers, but as Dylan Matthews for the Washington Post, among others, has pointed out, the income threshold used to define the poverty level has not changed significantly since the Johnson administration, suggesting that the measure has outlived its usefulness. Also reporting on the data, the Center for American Progress found a disturbing trend that, for only the second time in American economic history, the economy grew without low- and middle-income families sharing any of the gains.
The rewards for highly skilled labor have been increasing over the course of the last decade, while wages for less skilled workers, what Casey Mulligan for the New York Times calls the wage below which 90% of working men earn, have been slower to grow. Meanwhile, with the presidential election in full swing, Bloomberg expects each candidate to use the data to his advantage, the challenger asserting that the incumbent’s economic policies have failed, and the sitting president arguing that the Republican contender’s policies would only exacerbate the situation.
Despite the apparent stagnation of the overall level of poverty, the slight decline in the number of uninsured Americans is being hailed as a positive sign of the promise of American healthcare after the Affordable Care Act. Julie Rovner reports for NPR that for the first time in a decade, the number of Americans holding private health insurance remained stable instead of declining, which the Washington Post attributes to the positive effects of the young adults provision in the legislation. The total number of people with no coverage also declined, but, as has been pointed out by most news organizations (like PBS), this correlates with the recent rise in participation rates in government-sponsored plans like Medicare and Medicaid.
Financial Security and Prosperity
Felix Salmon for Reuters reminds us that the costs of the college education is putting ever more college graduates (and college drop-outs, who have the double-whammy of debt with no degree) into increasingly financially insecure situations before they can begin to search for a job. However, the latest data from the FDIC on un- and underbanked households suggests that their parents are less likely to have bank accounts to help offset their children’s debt, as both Bloomberg and the Washington Post report. On a more optimistic note, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston cheerily describes an innovative way to provide financial education to children and teens: through acting. Finally, in a bid to stem the tide of the inexorably rising home foreclosures across the country, one community group in Cleveland, highlighted by the New York Times, is trying to buoy financially precarious homeowners against falling victim the rising wave.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke offered up an aggressive new "Quantitative Easing" plan, and the stock market responded. Analysts have been impressed that the Fed, after delaying additional action for many months, came out as strongly as they did. Zachary Goldfarb in the Washington Post notes that this means, "for years it will be cheap for consumers to borrow to buy homes and cars or for businesses to get loans to expand." On the flip side, it also means that the returns on any savings accounts you have are going to remain very low. Still, the point of all this is to boost the economy and Ezra Klein thinks it just might work. Daniel Gross says it could help, but it's a bank shot. Dave Weigel rounds up responses from Republicans who are not as enthusiastic.
Stephanie Coontz at CNN disagrees with assertions that marriage is the solution to ending poverty.
The Urban Institute looks at the role inheritances can play in exacerbating racial wealth disparities. USA Today reports on a study that found 40% of young adults anticipated an inheritance, but only 16% of their parents expected to leave one.
Colorlines takes a hard look at the for-profit college industry and the impact this has on the economic prospects of black Americans seeking a college education.
The New York Times Bucks blog pokes holes in the notion that we can alleviate our retirement security woes by asking workers to tack on five extra years to their working lives. The Woodstock Institute has a new report out this week on retirement issues in Illinois.
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