Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rockerfeller study tells us what 20% of us already know

Today at Arise a woman we know stopped in with her two kids.  She wanted to know if we knew of any project in the city where she could take her children's school uniforms, outgrown but still in good shape, and trade them for other uniforms that fit?

"If there isn't, there certainly should be," I said.

"Check with the Parent Information Center at Milton Bradley School," Liz said.

Our friend is living on $1,000 a month, which includes some widow's benefits-- that's 50% below the federal poverty level.  She does not receive welfare benefits.  She's looking for work-- and looking, and looking.

A guy came in.  He was looking for a studio apartment, and looking for a job, also.  But he was having trouble finding either, because he had a fairly recent assault and battery charge on his record.

"I didn't do it, but my mom was dying in a nursing home and I didn't want to risk being in jail when she passed away so I pled guilty," he said.  "Do you know any landlords who will give a guy a chance?"  I didn't have a lot of ideas for him.  (In fact, if anybody in the Greater Springfield area has any tips, let me know.)

Recently I find myself describing poverty's affect on people in terms of weather disasters -- dust bowls and tornados -- but there's an older image that came to my mind several "recoveries" ago.  Every time an economic depression washes like a hurricane across this country, there are more and more of us are left swept away, stranded, possibly never to recover.

Today I saw my belief turned into hard proof when Bob Herbert, New York Times, wrote about a rigorous study done by the Rockerfeller Foundation.  First the study created an economic security index to measure the number of people whose income went down by 25% or more in a single year.  Then the study looked at the numbers of economically insecure people after three recessions.

1985:  7.2% unemployment: 12% economically insecure.
2002:  5.8% unemployment: 17% economically insecure.
2009: 9.5% unemployment:  20% economically insecure.

Your house keeps burning down, and there's less to salvage each time.

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