Page 1

2009 Needs Assessment 1


Table of Contents Introduction.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Methodology.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Demographics.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Survey Results.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Women & Poverty.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 The Case of Lil y Ledbetter.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Income & Employment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Focus Group Input.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Minimum Wage Workers.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Impact on Health.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Focus Group Input.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 What is a Spend Down and Why Does It Matter?.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Disparity, Inequality & Stratification.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 America’s Class System.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Hard Choices for the New Economy.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Focus Group Input.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Wealth & Power 101.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Wealth, Power & Racism.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 How to Overcome the Odds: EDUCATION.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 Ranking of Needs.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Values.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Analysis of Priorities.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Client Survey Instrument.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Questionnaire for Organization Focus Groups.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Questionnaire for Community Members Focus Groups.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 2


Introduction B

orn from the 1964 War on Poverty during the Kennedy-Johnson era, the Community Action Network continues to follow its mandate to confront poverty on 3 levels: the individual, the family, and the community. What will continue to set Community Action apart from other poverty-fighting organizations is our structure, our history, and our approach.

At this time, there are over 1,000 Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in the United States, with 99% of all counties in America served by a local CAA. This enables us to reach 15 million Americans living in poverty each year. Placing a Community Action Agency in nearly every county in the nation has ensured that we remain a “grassroots” organization, deeply connected to the communities we serve. The people who work in local CAAs are usually the people who live in the communities they help as well. Consequently, we have a vested interest in seeing our programs succeed for the sake of our communities and our neighbors. Furthermore, because each CAA is an intimate part of our community, we have a thorough understanding of the poverty issues afflicting our community—whether it is a large urban city or a small rural town. We develop strategies (programs) distinctly fitted to each of our communities’ needs. These strategies evolve organically and have community support from the beginning because they rise out of the community and are designed to strengthen the local economy, develop the community’s infrastructure, or advocate for a particular cause or group. This approach lends itself to a groundswell of volunteer support and has resulted in the Community Action network becoming a major provider of volunteer services in the country. [Volunteers contribute over 44 million hours of service to Community Action in a year’s time.

(Source: www.communityactionpartnership.com)]

At the level of the individual or family, Community Action also recognizes the need for emergency response. People must be able to eat, heat their homes, and have the lights on before they can begin to think of loftier goals like enhancing their education. Therefore, we understand the need to start “where they are” and stabilize a family’s situation before they begin the long climb to true self-sufficiency. That kind of work takes a skilled and dedicated staff, as well as a variety of programs that will meet the client’s many needs at as they progress through the simplest and most basic needs like needing food and their utilities on, to more complex stages such as financial literacy and saving for a down-payment on a home or obtaining a post-secondary degree. Another difference from most organizations is Community Action’s distinctive board structure. We require that at least one-third of the board’s members be representatives of the low-income community, one-third be elected public officials (or their designees), and the remaining members be representatives of the private sector. This tripartite structure promotes a variety of viewpoints and expertise on both the issues and the possible solutions to those issues that affect those in poverty. It also ensures that the voices of the low-income are heard and that those with the power to address their concerns are in a position to act as they sit side-by-side at the board table. All this said, in the end, the question remains: After 40+ years of Community Action’s excellent history of fighting poverty, why does poverty persist? Is it hopeless? How can Community Action Agencies develop improved and effective strategies to help people move out of poverty? Before deciding on WHAT to do, we must determine what NEEDS to be done. Before developing a plan of action (in this case, a revised Strategic Plan to be published at a later date), we must develop a deep understanding of the current conditions, likely future trends, and the issues of most concern within our communities. That is the purpose of this comprehensive 2009 COMMUNITY NEEDS ASSESSMENT of Jackson, Clay, and Platte Counties in Missouri. 3


“I’m treated like I’m a person, as if I have feelings... not just another needy person.” (An answer to the survey question: “When you come to our offices, how do you feel you are treated?”)

Survey Participant #178 Married Working, but no benefits

4


Methodology Every two years, we ask our clients detailed questions about their lives in the form of a Needs Assessment. From their answers, we fine tune our current programs and develop new programs that will be responsive and well-suited to the needs of the low-income population we serve. To ensure valid results, we developed a collection tool that would take into account each of our counties’ distinct differences in population size, racial characteristics, and prevalent household structure. Client responses were collected in proportion with each county’s low-income population and separated out by the following characteristics:

1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

Location (Jackson, Clay or Platte counties) Gender (Male or Female) Age (Less than 65 or 65 and older) Race (Black, White or Other) Household Type (Married, Female Head of Household or Male Head of Household)

The surveys were weighted according to Census population figures mirroring those 5 characteristics. Each survey was numbered but contained no other marker to ensure respondent anonymity. Potential respondents were contacted by telephone or were surveyed as they presented for services. United Services’ staff members in each outreach office were individually trained on how to implement the surveys to ensure valid and complete results. A copy of the survey instrument [page 32] is included with this document as well as the sampling table (Table A) that delineated the combination of household characteristics needed to ensure that the results would be truly representative and reflective of the low-income populations in each county. [Decisions about sampling size and household characteristics were drawn from Table B on the next page.]

SAMPLING SUMMARY HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION

RACE

AGE

Married Married Married Married Married Married Female Head of Household Female Head of Household Female Head of Household Female Head of Household Female Head of Household Female Head of Household Male Head of Household Male Head of Household Male Head of Household Male Head of Household Male Head of Household Male Head of Household

White White Black Black Other Other White White Black Black Other Other White White Black Black Other Other

<65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+ <65 65+

NUMBER OF SURVEYS DISTRIBUTED CLAY JACKSON PLATTE 8 1 0 0 1 0 18 8 2 1 1 0 9 1 1 0 1 0

8 2 4 0 2 0 18 6 36 10 6 1 14 2 12 2 2 0

4 1 1 0 0 0 13 5 1 1 1 0 6 1 0 0 1 0

TOTALS: TOTAL NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLDS IN POVERTY:

52 3,893

135 30,563

35 1,400

REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLING RATIOS (# of Households):

1:75

1:250

1:40

5


Demographics All demographic material is taken from the US Census 2000 to ensure statistical integrity and uniformity for the purpose of valid cross-category tabulation.1 Data presented in the table below was used to determine the sampling ratio for the 2009 Needs Assessment.

Demographic Characteristic

Clay

Jackson

2000 Total Population

181,335

643,918

Total Households

72,613

266,501 (+2.35)

(+13.01)

2.53 5.5%

2.42 11.9%

2.48 4.8%

(estimated change in population, as of 2007)2 (percent change in households, 2000-2007)3

(+15.2%) (+7.37)

Average # of Persons per Household 2000 Poverty Rate (2007 Poverty Rate)4

Total Population Below Poverty Level

(+1.8%)

(7.1%)

(15.0%)

Platte 72,821

(+15.0%)

29,317

(6.2%)

(2007 population living below the poverty level)5

(14,740)

9,898

76,808 (98,407)

(5,169)

Total Households Below Poverty Level Average # of Persons per Poverty Level Household

3,893 2.54

30,563 2.51

1,400 2.48

# of Married HHs, <65 Years of Age # of Married HHs, 65+ Years of Age

650 85 87.3% 1.0% 11.7%

3,232 610 58.4% 25.3% 16.3%

217 47 86.7% 8.0% 5.3%

1,598 643 87.4% 8.6% 4.0%

14,566 3,794 32.1% 60.8% 7.1%

600 223 86.8% 6.9% 6.3%

828 89 79.1% 12.6% 8.4%

7,169 1,192 47.9% 39.1% 13.0%

291 22 84.1% 0% 15.9%

% of those HHs that are White: % of those HHs that are Black or African-American: % of those HHs that are some other race/ethnicity:

# of Female HoHs, <65 Years of Age # of Female HoHs, 65+ Years of Age % of those HHs that are White: % of those HHs that are Black or African-American: % of those HHs that are some other race/ethnicity:

# of Male HoHs, <65 Years of Age # of Male HoHs, 65+ Years of Age % of those HHs that are White: % of those HHs that are Black or African-American: % of those HHs that are some other race/ethnicity:

3,477

[Source: U.S. Census, 2000] 1

Although more current data is available in several of these categories, it is not available in ALL of the categories, making valid cross-category analysis perilous. Until the next complete (2010) Census data is taken and published, we are limited in how we can compare the various categories of Census data and should stick to comparing “apples to apples”—even when that means using older data.

2

The statewide average growth rate was 5.1%. Clay and Platte Counties are obviously far outpacing that average, while Jackson is quite a bit under that average. [US Census Bureau, Population Division, Annual Population Estimates]

3

The statewide percentage change in household growth was 4.69%. Platte County has an astoundingly high percentage rate of change; Clay is just about double and Jackson is approximately half of the statewide average.

4

The 2007 statewide average poverty rate is 13.3%--substantially higher than Clay or Platte’s rate, but lower than Jackson’s.

5

Eighty-three percent (83.2%) of the poverty population in the report area is in Jackson County. Twelve-and-one-half percent (12.5%) is in Clay County and 4.4% is in Platte County.

6


â&#x20AC;&#x153;However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.â&#x20AC;? ~Winston Churchill

7


Women & Poverty “I am just a woman trying to take care of her family.” Survey Participant #37 Female Head-of-Household Mother and 1 child

In sociology, there is a term called the “Feminization of Poverty”. First, what it is not: The feminization of poverty should not be confused with the existence of higher levels of poverty among female-headed households. Feminization is a process; 'poverty' is a state. It is also a relative concept based on a women-men (or femalemale/couple headed households) comparison, where what matters are the differences (or ratios, depending on the way it is measured) between women and men at each moment. Since the concept is relative, the feminization does not necessarily imply an absolute worsening in poverty among female-headed households. If poverty in a society is sharply reduced among men and is only slightly reduced among women, there would still be a feminization of poverty. For example, if the economy in general is bad, and men and women are both equal in their rates of poverty, then there would be no basis for which to claim the Feminization of Poverty theory, however, if the economy is bad for men and terrible for women—that is what makes the concept of the Feminization of Poverty a valid one. It is about inequality. The Feminization of Poverty may be caused by the following inequities in our society: • • • • • • • • •

Family composition such as, dissolution of marital unions; constitution of families without these unions Family organization issues, including gender division of labor and consumption within the household; gender roles regulating the control over household resources; inequality in the access to public services Barriers to education of girls; educational segregation by sex; lack of specific health attention for women’s needs Inequality in social protection Contributory pensions systems reproducing previous labor market inequalities; lower access to pensions and social assistance by women; inequality in benefit concession; inequality in benefit values in targeted policies affecting women, but not men Labor market inequalities Occupational segregation; intra-career mobility; wage discrimination; work shifts geared to benefit males rather than females Legal, paralegal and cultural constrains in public life Property rights; discrimination in the judiciary system; constrains in community and political life, etc.

A concrete example of the Feminization of Poverty: Sally and Harry have both worked for the same factory for 20 years. Assume their work history and work performance is identical, except for one thing: When there is a lay-off at the factory, Sally is out the door and Harry is not. Sally has just experienced one of the effects of the Feminization of Poverty. If she then finds out that Harry has been making $10,000 a year more than she did 8


throughout the 20 years they worked together and he had no more skills or education than she did, she has experienced yet another effect of the Feminization of Poverty. And if she finds out that all the laid off men at the factory get called back to work before the laid off women, she now has a great lawsuit to file! Regrettably, most of the time in the real world, all the “Sallys” never find out how unfairly they have been treated. However, once in awhile someone lets something slip...

A REAL “SALLY” WINS! THE CASE OF LILLY LEDBETTER In 1979 Lilly Ledbetter began work at GOODYEAR TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY in its Alabama location—a union plant. During her years at the factory as a salaried worker, raises were given and denied based on evaluations and recommendations regarding worker performance, as is typical. Then one day, someone anonymously slipped her a note and her world—and the world of our daughters—changed. The note told Lilly that she was substantially underpaid when compared to her male co-workers. Moreover, the note told her exactly by how much. Lilly was stunned. She had been a good employee for 20 years and was near retirement. The next move was hers. She filed formal charges with the EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION. In November 1998, after early retirement, Ledbetter sued claiming pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. When she began her employment, she started with the same pay but by retirement, she was earning $3,727 per month compared to 15 men who earned from $4,286 per month (the lowest paid man) to $5,236 per month (the highest paid man). This meant that Lilly was paid $6,708 less (approximately 14% less) than the lowest paid man per year. The Supreme Court did not rule on whether this was discrimination, just if the statute of limitations to sue would be upheld (they did vote to uphold the 180 day limit). In Lilly’s case there is a mixed ending to her story, although the Supreme Court ultimately upheld the statute of limitations in Goodyear’s favor; on January 29, 2009, the new President Obama signed his first bill into law—The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Sadly, all those years of being under-compensated hurt Lilly in a very quantifiable way because her retirement was based on what she earned while she was working. “So I’m like a second-class citizen for the rest of my life. I will never be compensated for my lower wages; and my pension and my Social Security wages are much lower because Goodyear paid me less,” said Lilly, “but [the Fair Pay Act will] help our daughters, our granddaughters in the future.”

In 2005, 29.4% of ALL working women were at the poverty level. It is important to note that “Sally” is not working just for herself these days. She is working for herself AND her family. Many times she is the primary breadwinner in the household, so her paycheck impacts her children. The Feminization of Poverty has terrible consequences for the children of America who live with their single mothers. Today, 12.9 million children—1 in 6—live in poverty. One out of every 8 of our children under the age of 12 goes to bed hungry every night in this country—in America—the richest country in the world.

“So why does she have so many kids if she can’t afford to take care of them?” Contrary to popular belief, low-income people do not have any more children than the rest of us. In fact, for the most part, their household size tends to be surprisingly small. In the chart on page 5, the Census lists the average number of low-income people living in poverty-level households as 2.54 for Clay County households, 2.51 for Jackson County poverty–level households, and 2.48 for the poor living in Platte County households. Our Needs Assessment survey research showed nearly the same results: USCAA Survey Question #7: How many people are in your household? Clay Jackson 2.68 2.56

Platte 2.88

Our real world experience correlates with the statistics—female heads-of-households are far more likely to walk through our doors for services than either male heads-of-households or married households. And those mothers 9


are most likely to have one or two children. [Our Needs Assessment survey research deliberately mirrored the demographic characteristics of the poverty population per the 2000 Census in our 3-county area: 59.8% of the population were female heads-of-households, 26.7% were male heads-of-households, and 13.5% were married households so we could control for sampling.] Unfortunately, women (especially women of color) are at a higher risk in this country to be in poverty merely by virtue of being born a woman. Black and Latina women face particularly high rates of poverty. Over a quarter of black women and nearly a quarter of Latina women are poor. Black and Latina women are at least twice as likely as white women to be living in poverty.

According to 2004 Census statistics, women earned a median income of $31,223, while men brought home an average of $40,798 a year. This “gender gap” in pay is a ratio of female to male earnings [$31,223 divided by $40,798 is 0.765, so the gender earnings gap in 2004 was 0.235 (1 minus 0.765).] This is often expressed as a percentage: e.g., “in 2004, women’s wages were 76.5% of men’s wages,” or “in 2004, women earned 23.5% less than men earned.” This disparity in median income trickles down to poverty-level wages as well, where the effect shows up in a more distressing way: Almost six times the number of female head-of-households (3,315,916) live in poverty in comparison to their male counterparts (585,970) in the United States. Predictably, this overwhelming disadvantage puts children at risk as well. There are nearly seven times the number of children living with their single mothers in poverty (2,940,459) than with their single fathers (448,039). MALE VERSUS FEMALE INCOME 2005 Census Statistics show males 25 and older had higher yearly income than females 25 and older among all races.

Women with just a high school diploma and no college were 43% more likely to be living in poverty than men with an equal level of education.

 Conversely, the higher the level of educational attainment, the more the income differences between men and women significantly disappear.

10


There are solutions to ending these unacceptable poverty rates for American women and their children. Some have been quick to jump on fathers and claim that it would go a long way to end the problem of single mother and child poverty if the father regularly sent in their child support checks, however, research does not support this assumption. Predictably, most low-income women were married to low-income men and the amount of the child support they would send (IF they could afford to send it) would not lift the mother and child out of poverty [Source: Poverty in America: A Handbook; John Iceland]. It might help a bit, but not a lot. However, there are real solutions and we need to look at our European neighbors across the pond to see how they have tackled and won this battle. Single parent families have much lower poverty rates in many progressive European countries because they invest heavily in universal benefits, such as maternity leave, child care, and medical care. Furthermore, their post-secondary educational system is another benefit many European young people do not have to go into debt to access, and, therefore, can obtain more fulfilling employment upon graduation. Meaningful work is encouraged for all citizens—not just the affluent. Young single mothers are given the maternity leave, daycare, educational benefits and the other things they need (e.g., housing) to be successful to continue their education through government transfers and are, therefore, more likely to start their life, pregnant or not, with an excellent education, no student debt and their baby more likely to be healthy as well. According to a 2008 report by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), several countries in Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Finland) and East Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore), have an infant mortality rate below 3.5, almost half the US rate. The CDC's 2004 rankings placed the US in a tie with Poland and Slovakia, and only marginally ahead of Puerto Rico and Chile. The U.S. was behind every developed country in North America, Western Europe, and Australasia, as well as Cuba, Hungary, Israel, and the Czech Republic. Infant mortality is a critical indicator of social progress. As the CDC report explains, "Infant mortality is one of the most important indicators of the health of a nation, as it is associated with a variety of factors such as maternal health, quality and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices."

Poverty shines in the eyes of the newborn, Flickers like the pale flame of a candle Under a ceiling blackened with smoke and spider webs, Where human shadows tremble on damp stained walls, Where the ailing infant wails like a banshee To suck the dry breasts of its wretched mother Who, pregnant again, curses god and the devil, Curses the heavy burden of her unborn child. Her baby does not laugh, it only wastes away, Unwanted by its mother, who curses it, too. How sorrowful is the cradle of the poor Where a child is rocked with tears and sighs. (Excerpt of “Poem of Poverty” by Millosh Gjergi Nikolla)

In our Needs Assessment survey, 24.7% of the single mothers raising children reported that they received child support from their children’s fathers. Sixty-one percent (61.5%) of these mothers reported that they are also working to try to support themselves and their children. Still, they struggle. 11


Although it can be most dangerous to be a woman trying to raise a child by herself in America, it is certainly economically unwise to be a woman alone at any age. Elderly women are far more likely to be poor than elderly men. Thirteen percent of women over 75 years of age are poor compared to 6 percent of men. And poverty rates for males and females are the same throughout childhood, but increase for women during childbearing years and again in old age. The poverty gap between women and men widens significantly between ages 18 and 24—20.6% of women are poor at that age, compared to 14.0% of men. The gap narrows, but never closes, throughout adult life, and it more than doubles during the elderly years.

Needs Assessment Question #57: “Is there anything else you would like to tell us?”

“The thing that hurts is not being able to afford food and clothing because of medical expenses.” Survey Participant #91 Female Head-of-Household; 65+ years of age

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Income & Employment A B C D E

NEEDS ASSESSMENT SURVEY QUESTION # 20: Which of the following best describes your current employment situation? (Check all that apply.) 74.2% I have a job, but it doesn’t pay enough. 27.4% I have a job, but no benefits. 3.2% I am working at least 2 jobs, but still can’t get enough hours and/or income to meet my bills. 0.0% There are at least 2 adults working in my household and we still don’t have enough money. 12.9% I have a good job, but I have had an emergency that has bought me to USCAA for help.

“...I have had an emergency that has bought me to USCAA for help” “...working at least 2 jobs and still can’t get enough to pay my bills”

“...no benefits”

“...it doesn’t pay enough”

“The financial stability of most low-wage working families remains precarious, and much remains to be done to provide real security for those in the lower income tier who follow the rules but often lose out anyway.” ~David T. Ellwood, The Plight of the Working Poor

The people who come to United Services for help are not lazy. Most of them work1. They just do not have jobs that pay enough to support their families. More than a quarter of those who work, have no benefits at all— NONE. No vacations, no sick leave, no medical insurance—nothing. Here is how it breaks out by percentages: Seventy-four percent (74.2%) of our Needs Assessment survey respondents reported that they have a job, but it does not pay enough. Twenty-seven percent (27.4%) added that they had no benefits. Another 3.2% said they work 2 jobs, but still cannot get enough hours and/or income to meet their bills and almost thirteen percent (12.9%) said they have a good job, but an emergency brought them to USCAA—in other words, it is a temporary situation that has brought them to United Services for help. 1

Just 11.5% of the survey respondents did not have someone in the home working (themselves, a partner or both). Of the 11.5% who had no one in the home working at the present time, they fell into these categories: 55.6% were disabled or elderly; 19.4% said there were no jobs in their area; 16.7% were recently laid off; 9.3 said they did not have reliable transportation; and 8.3% reported that they had problems with childcare preventing them from working (percentages do not add up to 100% because each respondent had the option of checking more than one category).

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Most of our survey respondents met the definition of the “working poor”. To qualify for the Needs Assessment survey, their household income could not be over 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For example, this would be $22,887 annually for a family of 3 (the average family size we serve), or $13,537 for a single person. We asked our survey respondents their annual income amounts and then calculated those amounts as percentages based on the 2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines. The average percentage of the Federal Poverty Guideline for our working respondents was 90.3%. For the typical family we serve (a woman with 2 children), that would mean the head-of-household is working full-time and making $7.95 an hour. (Some would say she is doing well to make more than the Missouri minimum wage of $7.25 an hour; however, many argue that the minimum wage is a substandard wage and should be replaced with a “living wage” standard.) The LIVING WAGE is the hourly rate that an individual would need to work at a full-time job to support their family in a reasonable way without any government assistance at all. The living wage for a family of three (two adults; one children) for our 3-county report area ranges from $22.44 an hour in Jackson and Platte Counties to $22.47 an hour in Clay County. County Hourly Living Wage, 2008 County

Clay Jackson Platte Report Area Statewide

One Adult

$9.15 $9.14 $9.14 $9.14 $7.39

One Adult, One Child

Two Adults

$17.52 $17.49 $17.49 $17.50 $14.87

Two Adults, One Child

$14.11 $14.09 $14.09 $14.10 $11.80

$22.47 $22.44 $22.44 $22.45 $19.28

Two Adults, Two Children

$29.41 $29.36 $29.36 $29.38 $25.33

Source: Poverty in America, Living Wage Calculator, 2008 (Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and The Pennsylvania State University)

Compare the “living wage” for 3 in a household to the Federal Poverty Guideline wages for 3 in a household to the “Missouri Minimum Wage” to the Median Household Income to the Per Capita Income in the chart below for different standards and guidelines: County

Clay Jackson Platte

Federal Poverty Guideline (Family of 3)

$18,310 $18,310 $18,310

Living Wage

Minimum Wage ($7.25 an hour)

(Two Adults; One Child)

$15,080 $15,080 $15,080

Per Capita Income (2006)

$46,738 $46,675 $46,675

$34,109 $35,144 $38,712

Median Household Income

(2007)

$58,287 $44,356 $64,387

Walking Home by Wade Wiley

Every day, he puts one foot in front of the other and does what he must— steadily walking toward the end of a tedious existence. No joy. No miracle. No happy ending. No lottery ticket win. No hope. Just an occasional drink with his buddies to squelch the thinking that sometimes rises up and makes him consider for an errant second: “What if?” Quickly he suppresses that painful improbable notion. It is more comfortable to simply wait for his life to be over— as he walks it out day-by-day like he saw his father do so many years ago. He picks up a 6-pack of anesthesia and makes the long walk home.

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[Various organizations* met to provide input on the Needs Assessment. Their remarks are scattered throughout this document and are marked by the “Focus Group Input” logo.] • “The male who has always provided for his family seems to be really fighting depression and his stay-at-home wife isn’t used to having him around at home. It is more stress to the household.” • “Many have always worked and they wait until the problems are more than agencies can solve. They are very frustrated waiting on unemployment benefits and the fact they cannot find work.” (United Way; Community LINC; KCP&L)

Minimum wage workers: Employers Get More Bang For Their Buck/Workers Get Less Value of Wage has Decreased, While Worker’s Education Has Increased [Source: Economic Snapshot for July 22, 2009]

At the end of July in 2009, the federal minimum wage went to $7.25, the third and final step in the minimum wage increase Congress authorized in 2007. With this final step, an estimated 4.5 million of America’s lowest paid workers received a raise, but this increase still leaves the real value of the minimum wage lower than it was 30 years ago.

Since that time, minimum wage workers have achieved higher levels of education, one of the best measurable indicators of productivity. In 1979, 57.5% of workers who earned the minimum wage completed high school. That number swelled to about 72% in 2008. This growth in education levels for minimum wage workers suggests that the minimum wage is failing to keep pace with workers’ capacity to produce goods and services. Higher productivity—the capacity to produce more per hour worked—should allow these workers to earn higher wages. In fact, we see the opposite—they are making less real value than the workers of 30 years ago. Average Americans are losing ground.

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Impact on Health In another report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on July 24th, 2009, they stressed that the increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour comes in the midst of a heated debate over health care reform, and it highlights another problem with the existing health care system. While workers at all income levels have suffered declining rates of employer-sponsored health coverage, low-paid workers are particularly unlikely to have employer-sponsored health insurance. A 2008 paper by EPI’s Director of Health Policy Research, Elise Gould, found that individuals in the bottom 20% of the household income scale were the least likely to have employer coverage: 21.9% of those households had health insurance, compared with 86.4% of people in the top 20% of household income. The paper, which tracked an overall decline in the portion of Americans under the age of 65 with employersponsored health insurance between 2000 and 2007, found the lowest rates of coverage occurred in the lowestincome households. Only about one-in-five individuals in households in the bottom 20% of the income scale had employer-provided health insurance. “Workers earning lower hourly wages are significantly less likely to have employer-provided health coverage than those earning higher wages,” Gould wrote. While the 2008 paper tracked employer-sponsored coverage by household income, there is a similar pattern of low and declining rates of insurance among the lowest wage earners, such as those earning minimum wage, as the following chart shows: EMPLOYER-SPONSORED HEALTH INSURANCE FOR INDIVIDUALS UNDER 65, BY WAGE, 2000 AND 2007

For Jackson, Clay and Platte counties, the table below summarizes the uninsured population based on 2005 estimates. The uninsured population is calculated by estimating the number of persons eligible for insurance (generally those under age 651) minus the estimated number of insured persons. In 2005, the percentage of persons uninsured ranged from 12.2 in Clay County to 14.7 in Platte County. 1

County

Clay Jackson Platte Report Area (3 Counties)

Statewide

Insurance Population (2005 Estimate)

187,007 580,205 76,121 843,333 4,990,811

Persons age 65 and older are covered by Medicare and are not, therefore, considered for this calculation.

Number Insured

164,108 497,994 64,949 727,051 4,292,872

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates, 2005 (October 2008 release).

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Number Uninsured

22,899 82,212 11,172 116,283 697,939

Percent Uninsured

12.2 14.2 14.7 13.8 14.0


• “Families are experiencing a waiting list for mental health counseling.” • “Agencies are experiencing an increase in requests for help from and for the elderly (e.g., medical assistance, prescriptions, dentures, hearing aids, etc.); More outreach to the elderly is needed.” • “More requests to assist people to obtain SSI and SSD.” • “More requests for dental and medical care for the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ poor.” (United Way; Community LINC; KCP&L)

What is a Spend*down and Why Does It Matter? MEDICAID is the medical assistance program for low-income people who are elderly (65 years and older), disabled, blind, or who meet some other category of eligibility. Some people have so little income that they automatically qualify for Medicaid. But seniors and people with disabilities, whose incomes exceed the income limit, may qualify for Medicaid if they have medical bills that equal or are greater than their "excess" income. The process of subtracting those medical bills from the individual’s income over a six month period is called a Medicaid "spend-down." The survey participant in the story below, makes only $1,000 a month, but he still has to accumulate and pay out of that $1,000, $400 in medical bills before Medicaid will help him with any of his other medical needs. (That is called his “spend-down” amount.) When he does this, it will leave him with only $600 for taxes, food, rent, utilities, transportation and other necessities each month. It is virtually impossible for him to pay all of his bills every month on that little bit of money. The difficult thing for us, as social workers to see, is that people like this man are not exceptions. Our files are full of people just like him who cannot live in America with a modest amount of dignity because they had the misfortune of becoming disabled. They come to our offices every day asking for utility assistance or help with food or if we can pay for just the co-pays on their prescriptions—all because they are on a small fixed income because they are disabled or elderly and are forced to “beg” for “assistance to get by”—in America.

“I have health insurance: Medicare and Medicaid. However, I have a Spend-down2 of over $400 a month. I also have had my Part D (RX) raised 2 steps which causes my co-pays to be excessive.” Survey Participant #206 Male Head-of-Household; Disabled Lives on less than $1,000 a month

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Disparity, Inequality & Stratification “There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty, social injustice, inequality, oppression, environmental degradation, and as long as the weak and small continue to trodden by the mighty and the powerful.” ~ Tenzin Gvatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

Looking at income distribution across the world's 30 Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)1 nations, America has by far the widest income distribution. The average American income is around $33,000 with the top 10% (or decile) of earners having an average $87,257 of disposable income, while those in the bottom 10% have $5,819, among the very lowest of any country—which confirms America definitely has a "poor" class. European countries, despite some having lower average incomes than the US, have a much more equitable income distribution. Sweden, France and Australia seem to have the optimum distribution in terms of spread and average income [see chart below]. Another way to comprehend the great disparity and inequality America’s particular form of capitalism has built into our pay system is to compare the annual salary of “Mr. Big CEO” at “X Company” to the annual pay of “Joe,” X Company’s factory worker. This is an exercise that Business Week has been doing for many years now. The ratio of CEO pay to factory worker pay rose from 42:1 in 1960 to as high as 531:1 in 2000, at the height of the stock market bubble, when CEOs were cashing in big stock options and then settled in at 411:1 in 2005. So, for example, in 2005 when things had settled down, Joe is making around $30,000 on the line in the factory. However, at the 411:1 ratio, Mr. Big is making $12,330,000 a year—over $12 million dollars a year. That is over a million dollars a month! In fact, Mr. Big makes more than Joe in ONE DAY than Joe does all year long! By way of comparison, the ratio of CEO to worker in Europe is about 25:1. Europe Joe would be making $30,000 and Mr. Big Europe would be making $750,000. 1 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an international organization of 30 countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and free-market economy. Most OECD members are high-income economies with a high Human Development Index (HDI)2 and are regarded as developed countries. 2 The Human Development Index (HDI) combines three basic dimensions: A) Life expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity; B) Knowledge and education, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with twothirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting); and C) Standard of living, as measured by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita.

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Taking the analysis one step further to see if the disparity in income is also present in household wealth or net worth by looking at the US Census bureau report—“Net Worth and the Assets of Households,” the median household net worth was $58,000, with a significant part of its net worth (40%) made up of home equity. This explains why the fall in house prices has been so painful for so many. Household income is the average monthly income received from all sources by all members of a household during the last survey month. There is clearly a strong positive relationship between the median net worth of households and monthly income. Median net worth in 2002 ranged from $5,466 for households in the lowest income quintile to $188,712 for households in the highest. And most shockingly, almost 80% of households have a median net worth of less than $100,000—40% of which is their declining home’s value. Of course, most of the people we see at USCAA are not in a position to even contemplate buying their own home. They eke out a subsistence living and scrape together their rent money each month for dreary lowincome rental units. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports each year on the amount of money a household must earn in order to afford a rental unit based on Fair Market Rents (non-subsidized) in the area and an accepted limit of 30% of income (over 30% has been shown to be a hardship, according to HUD) for housing costs. For 2008, the hourly wage a worker must earn to afford a 2-bedroom rental was $14.50 an hour or $2,513 a month in Jackson, Clay, and Platte counties. By contrast, the survey showed our working clients’ income to be an average of only 90% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines—for example, for a mother and child that would be only $1,092 a month—not nearly enough to be able to afford a 2-bedroom rental at Fair Market Rent. And then there is the case of our disabled and elderly population. Their average income is only $782 a month. That is $120 under the poverty limit for them because they are usually alone and the threshold for poverty in their case is really very low. [They must bring in less than $902 a month or they are not considered “in poverty” and are not, therefore, eligible for many services without “spending down” their own money (for medical expenses usually) leaving them at risk for other kinds of deprivation, such as malnutrition, inability to pay utility bills, and danger of eviction/foreclosure, or failure to pay their property taxes at the end of the year. Many of our seniors are isolated and not hooked into “the system,” or voluntarily choose not to be “on the dole.” They very often end up in the position where they choose between eating and or taking their medication as prescribed.]

AMERICA’S CLASS SYSTEM “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” ~Karl Marx Significant income disparity in a society causes “social stratification,” which is the dividing of a society into levels based on wealth and/or power. In America, the top level of that stratification is the elite 1% with income of $500,000 or more a year. They are America’s top executives, celebrities, and heirs. There are two subgroups—the “old money” and the “new money”. They may have an Ivy League education or they may have hardly any education at all—but it really does not matter. They are in a class where their money and/or celebrity insulates them from playing by the same rules as the rest of us. The next level down is the upper-middle class and 77% of households in this top class have both partners working, making incomes from the high 5-figure range to commonly above $100,000. Both are most often highly educated (often with graduate degrees) professionals and managers. These are the professions our parents wanted us to grow up to become: physicians, attorneys, scientists, university professors, accountants, and specialists in certain fields. 19


The solid middle class are people who make between $50,000 and $100,000 per household. Both partners may work or the man of the house may be the only one working if he has a good enough job. They may have some post-secondary education or be skilled craftsmen. They tend to live within their means and be somewhat conservative in many respects. Households in the lower-middle class or working class stand out because they have a different household structure than their other middle class friends. Typically, the lower-middle class has an average of only one income earner per household rather than two and they usually have very traditional male-female roles within the household. These more traditional roles limit the household’s income and that is an important defining difference because it separates them financially, as well as socially. Household incomes range between $35,000 and $75,000. “Working Poor” is a combination of words many people feel should not be possible in America. For Americans to work 40 hours and still be considered poor is both tragic and outrageous. Nonetheless, with our “Welfare to Work” reform programs since the 90s, we have managed to move a great many poor people from the rolls of government assistance to the roles of the Working Poor. Those roles are: “You are expendable.” “You are unimportant.” “You are the ones who do the dirty work.” So they cling to low-paid service jobs, lowrung clerical, unskilled, and underpaid blue collar work where they usually have little to no benefits and live on the edge of our capricious economy—always a lay-off, downsizing, or a cut-back away from hardcore poverty. Then there is the last stratum in American society: the Underclass, also described as the chronically poor—those living below the poverty line with limited to no participation in the labor force; a household income of $18,000 or less is typical. They may not even have their GED or high school diploma. If they have children, they can receive limited assistance for a defined amount of time, however, they are constantly being required to join the ranks of the Working Poor. And so a futile cycle begins for this class as they shuffle back and forth between the Underclass and the Working Poor, put through the paces by tired government social workers who must document each step in this wornout and inevitable dance ad nauseum.

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Hard Choices for the New Economy “I never thought I would end up here. Thank you for making it easier to bear.” Survey Respondent #203

United Services seems to be seeing a lot of new faces at our doors recently: People who are the latest casualties of the economic downturn in the marketplace—people who have never seen the inside of a social service organization before and who do not know where to go or what to ask or where to start. Solid upper-middle-class people who have lost their way without a job to define who they are now. Families who have a big mortgage and car payments and cannot afford their lifestyle anymore because the primary breadwinner just got laid off and they have been struggling to get by on just the spouse’s salary alone. They suddenly went from an income of $100,000+ a year to practically nothing. The media puts a positive spin on a lot of this “downsizing,” telling us that this is actually a throwback to the family values of the 50s—eat out less and stay at home to eat together around the kitchen table; pop some popcorn and watch a movie at home together rather than spending a lot of money on separate activities. If all of this sounds a little too much like a 1950’s sitcom—well, that is because it is. Don’t be too quick to buy into the media’s latest romantic notion—that this economic kick-in-the-pants is “good for us” because it has forced us to go back to those “old-fashioned” values. Most of the time, these families had to have two wage earners to keep up the same lifestyle their parents would have enjoyed on one income back in the 50’s. (June Cleaver1 would have been at home with her pearls on, taking care of the kids—remember?) 1

June Cleaver is an allusion to the 50’s television show, Leave it to Beaver—an idealist view of what family life was supposed to be like in American suburbs in the 1950’s.

• “Some families are receiving disconnect notices for the very first time and are beginning to take out payday loans to try to make ends meet.” • “Rent requests have skyrocketed!” • “The Face of Poverty has changed because of the change in the economy. This is evident in the fact that we have seen an increase in the number of two-parent families applying for transitional housing. Too many calls are coming from people holding post-secondary degrees and who have significant work histories. They are experiencing homelessness or near homelessness for the first time in their lives.” • “We are seeing clients that have never been in need of help with large utility bills and rent or mortgage that is larger than most clients in past times because they don’t come in immediately for assistance. They are not used to asking for assistance, so they wait until it is almost too late.” • “Yes, these are families who have never requested services in the past—these new families are afraid and/or embarrassed to ask for assistance. • “We find that we must explain things to them in a way we are not used to. Normally, clients understand the process, but this new group of people have no idea how things work. They don’t even know what questions to ask or where to start.”

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(United Way; Community LINC; KCP&L)


Let’s follow that “this-is-good-for-us” line of thinking to its natural conclusion: Fundamentally, it is “GOOD” for us that the economy has gone down the drain because it will allow people with previously good-paying jobs to worry about their families’ futures while scrambling about to secure ANY job, no matter how badly paid it is—AND this is all occurring while their retirement future is in question because they cannot afford to save for retirement. Moreover, they do not have a defined pension plan like their parents were able to rely on, because those kinds of benefits are just about a thing of the past now. As a result of these factors, middle-income and working class families are in a more precarious position than they have been since the Great Depression—now, their present AND their future is threatened. And how does this affect poverty-level people? It pushes them farther and farther out the door. Positions that were once held by the working poor or the lower-middle-class are now being fought over by upper-middle-class people. [United Services has seen this phenomenon every time there is a big middle-management lay-off by one of our large corporations in Kansas City. People who were making $70,000+ a year, start applying for some of our positions that can offer only $25,000, $30,000 or $40,000 a year.] The working poor simply cannot compete with someone who has a master’s or bachelor’s degree and years of corporate experience, while the lower classes may have only a GED or High School degree and relatively little work experience in corporate America—in part because they have not had access to the connections that upper classes traditionally use: educational, vocational, and social networks. The Poor are always on the losing end.

Wealth Power 101 “Wealth is power. With wealth many things are possible.” ~George Clason

Generally speaking, "wealth" is the value of everything a person or family owns, minus any debts. However, for purposes of studying the wealth distribution, economists define wealth in terms of marketable assets, such as real estate, stocks, and bonds, leaving aside consumer durables like cars and household items because they are not as readily converted into cash and are more valuable to their owners for use purposes than they are for resale. Once the value of all marketable assets is determined, then all debts, such as home mortgages and credit card debts, are subtracted, which yields a person's net worth. In addition, economists use the concept of financial wealth, which is defined as net worth minus net equity in owner-occupied housing. Financial wealth is a more 'liquid' concept than marketable wealth, since one's home is difficult to convert into cash in the short term. It thus reflects the resources that may be immediately available for consumption or various forms of investments. We also need to distinguish wealth from income. Income is what people earn from wages, dividends, interest, and any rents or royalties that are paid to them on properties they own. In theory, those who own a great deal of wealth may or may not have high incomes, depending on the returns they receive from their wealth, but in reality those at the very top of the wealth distribution usually have the most income. Why this matters will become clear on the next page. 22


Wealth, Power & Racism “Racism is an ‘ism’ to which everyone in the world today is exposed; for or against—we must take sides. And the history of the future will differ according to the decision which we make.” ~Ruth Benedict

In the United States, wealth (and thus, POWER) is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands and those hands are, almost without aberration, white (okay, there is Oprah). As of 2004, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.2%. In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 36.7% of all privately held stock, 63.8% of financial securities, and 61.9% of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America. Figures on inheritance tell much the same story. According to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, only 1.6% of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance. Another 1.1% receive $50,000 to $100,000. On the other hand, 91.9% receive nothing (Source: Kotlikoff & Gokhale, 2000). Thus, the attempt to eliminate inheritance taxes (often called “death” taxes) would take a huge bite out of government revenues for the benefit of less than 1% of the population. For the vast majority of Americans, their homes are by far the most significant wealth they possess. The chart below comes from the Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances (via Wolff, 2007) and compares the median income, total wealth (net worth, which is marketable assets minus debt), and non-home wealth (also called “financial wealth”) of White, Black, and Hispanic households in the U.S.:

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Besides illustrating the significance of home ownership as a measure of wealth, the graph also shows how much worse Black and Latino households are faring overall, whether we are talking about income or net worth. In 2004, the average white household had 10 times as much total wealth as the average African-American household, and 21 times as much as the average Latino household. If we exclude home equity from the calculations and consider only financial wealth, the ratios are more startling: 120:1 and 360:1, respectively. Extrapolating from these figures, we see that 69% of white families' wealth is in the form of their principal residence; for Blacks and Hispanics, the figures are 97% and 98%, respectively. In American society, wealth and well-being are highly valued. People seek to own property, to have high incomes, to have interesting and safe jobs, to enjoy the finest in travel and leisure, and to live long and healthy lives. All of these "values" are unequally distributed, and all are, to some degree, seen as power indicators. However, the primary focus with this type of power indicator is on the wealth distribution sketched out in the previous section. The argument for using the wealth distribution as a power indicator is strengthened by studies showing that such distributions vary historically and from country to country, depending upon the relative strength of rival political parties and trade unions, with the United States having the most highly concentrated wealth distribution of any Western democracy except Switzerland. For example, in a study based on 18 Western democracies, strong trade unions and successful social democratic parties correlated with greater equality in the income distribution and a higher level of welfare spending (Stephens, 1979). And now we have arrived at the most important point in the “wealth distribution, power and racism” argument: Because the top 1% of households have 30-35% of the wealth in this country and that is 30 to 35 times more than can occur by the statistics of chance, it is a reasonable inference that wealth is not about luck, but power. Dropping down just a bit, the next 10% to 20% of America’s power pyramid has 80%-90% of all the wealth, stocks, bonds, trust funds and business equity. That means it is nearly impossible for the rest of us to get organized and exercise much power at all; and, almost impossible for disenfranchised populations who have MANY things working against them—racism being just the first heading on the list. OPPORTUNITY—that is what America is supposed to be about, but do the numbers tell a different story. Sure, there is the lightening strike chance of becoming another “Oprah.” But what are the odds if you are a undereducated black kid who can not read or write at grade level when you graduate and you live in the projects dodging the gangs—WHAT ARE YOUR ODDS? EDUCATION: LITERACY The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) produces estimates for adult literacy based on educational attainment, poverty, and other factors in each county. Estimated literacy rates for the 3 county area ranged from 4.49% in Platte County to 7.61 in Jackson County in 2003. PERSONS LACKING BASIC LITERACY SKILLS, 2003 COUNTY Clay Jackson Platte Report Area Statewide

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ESTIMATED POPULATION OVER 16

147,308 496,648 61,028 704,984 4,321,763

% LACKING LITERACY SKILLS

4.66% 7.61% 4.49% 6.73% 7.47%


How to Overcome the Odds: EDUCATION “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison When choosing the strategies/programs to help our clients, it all seems pretty obvious, yet the logic of it is easily overlooked. We only have to ask ourselves, “What would we expect for OUR children’s futures?” If obtaining a GED and a low-wage, dead-end job with no future is good enough for our children’s futures, then that is exactly the kind of jobs we should be cultivating for the low-income people we serve. If, however, we see a problem with that kind of work for OUR children, then perhaps we should be more demanding of ourselves, our funders, and our clients, and not allow precious resources to be wasted on those kinds of outcomes for other people’s children. After all, they deserve better than that and so does the society that will be deprived of their gifts and talents. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that post-secondary education can break the cycle of poverty for low-income parents and their children [Source: Signe-Mary McKernan & Caroline Ratcliff (2002), Transition Events in the Dynamics of Poverty, US Department of Health and Human Services.]. Through the process of successfully completing a liberal arts college degree and engaging in relevant, pre-career internships and workstudy positions, low-income parents develop crucial critical thinking, creative, analytical, and communicative skills, master a broad range of important subject knowledge, and gain experience and credentials that enable them to become full and productive citizens, scholars, workers, and parents. Parents taking this path lead by example and their children are four times more likely to also pursue post-secondary education than children whose parents who do not have this background [Source: From Poverty to Self-Sufficiency: The Role of Postsecondary Education in Welfare Reform. Education Resources Information Center, 2002]. In addition, there is another path that can be taken for those who prefer to work with their hands—a program in one of the trades or skilled arts, along the lines of a credentialed craftsman, such as a carpenter, construction worker, plumber, electrician, or other skilled worker/craftsman who is paid substantially more than minimum wage. Anthony Carnevale, an economist with the Educational Testing Service has been following many of the job training programs that single parents have been required to participate in since the implementation of welfare reform in 1996. Politicians, policy analysts, and political pundits have enthusiastically celebrated a reduction in the "welfare rolls" as evidence that America is renewing its democratic principles and foundational work ethic. Yet, as many recent studies indicate, moving people off of welfare is not synonymous to moving them out of poverty. Indeed, as a result of welfare reform, the poor in our country have become poorer. For example, in a study for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it was discovered that "the average income for the most single mother households fell from $8,624 in 1995 to $8,047 in 1997, largely because of the 1996 welfare reform law designed to get people off of the public dole” [Source: Bazie and Kayatin]. Additionally, although job training increased the likelihood of the single parents working by nearly 28%, those with job training earned only three cents per hour more than those without job training—not a huge leap forward for these workers and not a good return-on-investment for the tax-payers or funders who paid the bill for the training that yielded those disappointing results. And sadly, both groups earned hourly wages that, even if earned full-time, year round, would not lift a family out of poverty. In a recent report delivered at the National Conference on Welfare Reform and the College Option, Carnevale reminded attendees that this single parent—uneducated, untrained, and desperate to work for an employer at any cost—is in a dangerous position. She has no career ladders, no training, and she may feel that she has no way out. 25


Carnevale emphasized that the sentiment any job is a good job," which underwrites much contemporary welfare reform policy, is based on fallacious logic. This rhetoric rests on the supposition that starting at entry-level positions will eventually lead to sustainable employment. Carnevale countered this logic by illustrating that a single mother with two young children, who begins a job that pays $13,000 per year today (which is much higher than the average reported by the Center for Urban Studies) and who is able to actually keep that job (with her low skills), will earn only $17,000 after ten years of steady cost-of-living adjustments. At $17,000, the income of her family of three will still fall well below the poverty threshold. The theory that she will "rise above" this position is unfounded unless she has access to training and education. Carnevale further argued that the same single mother could earn $28,000 to $32,000 a year after only two years in a post-secondary educational program. Carnevale's research results are clear and convincing: Only training, support, and postsecondary education will provide the poor with access to jobs that will enable them to support their families. (Carnevale 1999). EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT (for adults 25+ years) GRADE LEVEL ATTAINED NUMBER

9th-12th Grade (non-graduate) High School Graduate/GED 12+ (some post-secondary) 2 or 4 year College Degree

PERCENT

3,275 7,747 1,550 722

23.8% 56.3% 11.3% 5.2%

“I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. I hadn’t been in school in over 15 years. If my case worker didn’t have the faith in me she did, I wouldn’t have done it. Every morning I had to look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘If she thinks you can do it, then you can do it.’ I wanted to quit a million times, but she kept me on track. Now I believe in myself. I believe in myself. I didn’t even think that was possible.” ~Lynn (6 more months to go to her Bachelors Degree in Nursing!)

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The chart to the left represents demographic material from USCAA’s 2007 Annual Report. It seems to support Carnevale’s philosophy: Education makes a difference as far as poverty is concerned. Only 5% of our total service population had a college degree, whereas, a much larger percentage had a high school degree or GED. It appears that collegeeducated people do not have much need for our services.


Ranking of Needs At a certain part of our survey, we asked our clients to make choices between 2 categories of “needs,” choosing the one they thought was most important. Their choices are ranked below:

Basic Needs versus Education 92.4% versus 7.6%

Basic Needs versus Health 51.1% versus 48.9%

Basic Needs versus Housing 41.8% versus 58.2%

Basic Needs versus Employment 50.6% versus 49.4%

Not surprisingly, the category, Basic Needs, which is defined as “utilities, food & clothing” had the highest score in 3 of the 4 categories where it was included. The category, Housing, was deemed slightly more important by a margin of 16.4% in the 4th category. Low-income people typically think about their most basic and most urgent needs first when in crisis [Source: Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs motivational model] Definitions: Education=(a good education that provides you with needed skills or diploma); Employment=(a job that has benefits and pays well enough to support your family); Housing=(a safe, affordable place to live); Health-(every household member is able to receive affordable health services); Basic Needs=(Utilities, Food & Clothing taken care of)

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Listed below are all of the possible Housing combinations, beginning with the largest divergence between 2 categories: Education and Housing.

Education versus Housing 20.0% versus 80.0%

Basic Needs versus Housing 41.8% versus 58.2%

Housing versus Health 60.0% versus 40.0%

Employment versus Housing 44.7% versus 55.3%

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The last 3 categories below finish the matrix of choices we had given the survey participants. The results are summarized as follows: The number one ranked answer by respondents was Housing (253.5); the second ranked response was Basic Needs (235.9); the third highest response was Health (233.0); fourth highest was Employment (196.0) and the lowest rated response was Education (81.6). Although the rankings were a little unexpected (we thought Employment would be rated a bit higher), for the most part they make sense considering the viewpoint of people who are in “survival mode”. Many social scientists (Maslow, for one) have theories that predict this behavior when human beings have to think about surviving in the present and do not have the luxury of “future” thinking.

Employment versus Health 38.9% versus 61.1%

Education versus Employment 37.0% versus 63.0%

Education versus Health 17.0% versus 83.0%

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Values

“I am so sorry for having to ask for help, I am so deeply depressed right now, I feel that I have let my family down and that's a feeling that I don't think I'll ever get over.” (Excerpt taken from an email from our website)

The words above were written by a man who asked us for help for his family. Our first priority is to preserve his dignity while helping him to the best of our ability. Everything else we do comes after that. Everything else we do is because of that. Sometimes it is easy to lose our way. Because we are required to measure “outcomes” and nail down bigger and better results, we push hard to demonstrate those rare “high impact strategies” and dramatic “outcome results”. Everyone publishes their most heartrending story to move the community to do more, to give more, but always we must consider the impact this might have on the “subject”.

Case in point: South African photojournalist, Kevin Carter, won a Pulitzer-prize for a heart-breaking photograph of a starving child collapsed on the ground, struggling to get to a food center during a famine in the Sudan in 1993. In the background, a vulture stalks the emaciated child. Haunted by the horrific images from Sudan, Carter committed suicide in 1994 soon after receiving the award. Therefore, let us never lose sight of what is truly important in this line of work, because what good does it do if, like Kevin Carter, we take the most moving pictures for the newsletter, produce the most stirring stories for the community, generate the best outcomes for the funders, and tally the largest numbers served to impress our auditors, if in the end, we slight the very purpose we do this work?

Let us never forget that behind every number is a story... is a face... is someone’s life. And so, when we began our discussion of priorities, we began with a look at our VALUES. As a part of our first Strategic Plan many years ago, our staff members voted on a list of values that would guide our agency and we stand by them now. Service

We serve others with unqualified enthusiasm. We recognize that our value as a ‘service provider’ is contingent upon the estimation of those we serve. Our clientele is our foremost authority, and their opinion, the most valid measurement of our service to them.

Respect

We honor the dignity of everyone with whom we come into contact. We recognize the inherent worth of each individual—regardless of their station.

Diversity

We cherish inclusiveness and the richness it brings to humanity. We recognize and promote the intrinsic value of each member of our community—regardless of religion, race or creed.

Stewardship

We are accountable with the resources entrusted to us. We invest those resources wisely and ethically to best serve the interests of the poor.

Integrity

We are above reproach in the manner in which we conduct business and make decisions. Our reputation must inspire confidence in the Community Action movement.

Innovation

We resolve to find ‘break-through’ solutions to poverty and its effects. Creativity is rewarded and change is not feared in this organization.

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Analysis of Priorities The Needs Assessment Committee used the following techniques to analyze both the primary (focus groups & client surveys) and the secondary (supporting materials) data gathered:

1. Nominal Group process One of the first ways to begin narrowing down multiple issues is to use a nominal group process. We chose this as our first method of condensing the issues into more finite categories. The most common way this is done is to list all the issues on a sheet of paper and give each member of the group a certain number of sticky notes/dots/or markers and let them ‘vote’ with those dots the issues of their highest priority. Individuals may place one dot/marker on each concern or they may place all their dots on one area if they believe it is the one that is of highest priority. Counting up the dots then provides a reduced list of issues to further refine. 2. Interrelationship Diagram The second tool we used to prioritize the issues was the Interrelationship Diagram. This kind of diagram examines the interrelationships between the core causes of poverty. Most importantly, it gave the NA team insight about the interplay of issues. 3. Force Field analysis A popular prioritization tool that looks at the various forces that are in play around the issues. What forces are keeping the situation the same? What forces are causing it to change?

Through those three prioritization techniques and after much discussion of the primary and secondary data gathered, the USCAA NEEDS ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE decided on the following list of “needs”: (These needs will be elaborated on more thoroughly in our new agency Strategic Plan.)

1. Upgrade current Family Support/Employment programs with an eye toward education and employment enhancement. 2. Research the Green industry and determine its fit for USCAA’s future. 3. Look into key partnerships to enable USCAA to build desired programs needed by clients and establish important community relationships. 4. Look at ways to enhance our Basic Needs programs. 5. Look into creative ways to continue to be an advocate on all issues affecting low-income citizens.

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CLIENT SURVEY: 1. Which of the following best describes your current employment situation? (Check all that apply.) Employed: … A. I have a job, but it doesn’t pay enough. … B. I have a job, but no benefits (for example, no health insurance, paid sick time off or disability insurance provided by your employer) … C. I am working at least 2 jobs but still can’t get enough hours and/or income to meet my bills. … D. There are at least 2 adults working in my household and we still don’t have enough money. … E. I have a good job, but I have had an emergency that has brought me to USCAA for help. … F. Other: __________________________________________________________________ Not Employed: … G. I am not working, because I don’t have affordable/dependable childcare. … H. I am not working, because I don’t have dependable transportation. … I. I am not working, because I don’t have the right kind of job skills to get a good job. … J. I am not working, because I don’t have the right kind of education to get a good job. … K. I am not working, because I am disabled or elderly and cannot work any more. … L. I am not working, because there are no jobs in my area. … M. I am not working, because I was recently laid off.

(Approximately when were you laid off and by what company? __________________________________________________)

… N. Other: __________________________________________________________________ If you are not employed, when did you last work? … O. Less than 6 months ago … P. Over 6 months, but less than a year … Q. More than a year ago … R. More than 2 years ago

2. Please describe your current transportation situation: … … … … … … … …

I have my own vehicle (car, truck, van, motorcycle, etc.) and it’s in pretty good condition. I have a vehicle, but it’s always breaking down. I have to borrow someone else’s car. I take the bus. It is fairly convenient for me. I take the bus, by it is hard for me because ____________________________ I have to ask someone else for a ride to most places I go. Transportation is a big problem for me. Explain: _________________________________ Other: ___________________________________________________________________

3. If you could get free training or education, what kind would you like? (Check all that apply.) … … … … … … … …

I would just like to improve my basic skills (reading, writing, math) High school diploma or GED College degree in ___________________________ Medical training in ___________________________ A trade, such as plumbing, carpenter or electrician Computer certifications Mechanic, welder, construction Other______________________________________

4. Do you know anyone who cannot afford their prescription medications?

… Yes, (if yes, is it a senior citizen, disabled person, adult, or child:________________________________) … No 32


5. If you have health insurance, do you usually have enough money to pay your co-pay amounts or deductibles? … Yes … No On each line, make an “X” in front of the category you think is the more important of the two choices given. “X” CATEGORY “X” CATEGORY Basic Needs Education 6. OR

(a good education that provides you with needed skills or diploma)

(Utilities, Food & Clothing)

7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

Basic Needs

OR

Basic Needs

OR

Basic Needs

OR

Education

OR

Education

OR

Education

OR

Employment

OR

Employment

OR

Housing

OR

(Utilities, Food & Clothing) (Utilities, Food & Clothing) (Utilities, Food & Clothing) (a good education that provides you with needed skills or diploma) (a good education that provides you with needed skills or diploma) (a good education that provides you with needed skills or diploma) (a job that has benefits and pays well enough to support your family) (a job that has benefits and pays well enough to support your family) (a safe, affordable place to live)

Employment

(a job that has benefits and pays well enough to support your family)

Housing

(a safe, affordable place to live)

Health

(every household member is able to receive affordable health services)

Employment

(a job that has benefits and pays well enough to support your family)

Housing

(a safe, affordable place to live)

Health

(every household member is able to receive affordable health services)

Housing

(a safe, affordable place to live)

Health

(every household member is able to receive affordable health services)

Health

(every household member is able to receive affordable health services)

16. Do you have any kind of a legal problem that hangs over your head from the past and prevents you from moving forward in your life? [EXAMPLES OF PAST LEGAL PROBLEMS: Criminal Charges, Divorce Problems, Child Support Arrears, Bankruptcy, etc.] If so, does it prevent you from any of the following activities? (Check all that apply.) … Driving a car (Explain: … Getting a job (Explain: … Keeping a job (Explain: … Renting an apartment or house (Explain: 17. Have you ever felt like you were discriminated against in some way? (Check all that apply): … Getting a job (Explain: … While working on the job (Explain: … Obtaining a loan (Explain: … By the police (Explain: … While shopping (Explain: … Buying or renting a home/apartment (Explain: … Other (Explain:

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18. It is important to us that you are treated with dignity and respect when you come to us for services. When you come to our offices, how do you feel you are treated?

19. Do you ever need to use any of the services below?

If so, approximately how often in one year?

Is it difficult for you to pay off these services?

… A Pay Day Loans

… 1-3 times a year … 4 or more times

… Yes … No … Other : _____________

… B Car Title Loans

… 1-3 times a year … 4 or more times

… Yes … No … Other : _____________

… C Rent-to-Own Stores

… 1-3 times a year … 4 or more times

… Yes … No … Other : _____________

… D Check Cashing Services

… 1-3 times a year … 4 or more times

… Yes … No … Other: _____________

20. If you are a homeowner, are you behind in your mortgage payments? … Yes (If yes, how many months are you behind? _____) … No

21. Is there anything else you want to tell us? __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for taking your time to do this important survey!

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Questionnaire for Organization Focus Groups: Organization: _____________________________________________________________________________

1. Approximately how much of an increase or decrease have you seen in the last 6 months for the services your organization offers?

2. Has poverty changed recently because of the changes in the economy? How?

3. Do you see a new kind of person affected by poverty? Describe the types of people you are seeing now that you didn’t see before:

4. If you have any new clients who have been affected by the lay-offs and the economic downturn, how are they coping? Are they using social services, including faith-based services to help them get by? Which ones? What kinds of needs do they have that they still need help for and the help is not available in the community usually?

5. Do you think poverty is growing in your area? Do you see signs of it growing? What are the signs?

6. How about the “old” poor (people who were in poverty before the economy crashed this past year)? Is anybody worried about what is going to happen to them in this new worsening economy? Does anybody have any suggestions?

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Questionnaire for Community Members’ Focus Groups: Name (optional):____________________________________________________________________________

1. How do you define poverty? What does it look like to you? Where do you see it? What do people look like who are living in poverty?

2. Has poverty changed recently because of the changes in the economy? How? Do you see a new kind of person affected by poverty? Have you seen people panhandling on street corners in suburbs that weren’t there before? What other signs have you seen of this new poverty?

3. Do you know anyone personally that has been affected by the lay-offs and the economic downturn? How are they coping? Without giving any identifying details, are they using social services, including faithbased services to help them get by? Which ones? What kinds of needs do they have that they still need help with?

4. What do you think would be some effective ideas to resolve poverty problems? [Name the problem and then a possible solution (ex. problem: job loss; solution: work experience program)]

5. If you could help in some way, how would you want to help? Would you want to help an organization that already is up and running or would you want to start your own? Would you want to give money or would you want to donate your time... or both? And what kind of work would you want to do... would you want to work directly with the people you are helping or behind the scenes (like with paperwork or program set-up)? If you want us to contact you, please write your telephone number and address below: (Some of us just cannot help—we don’t all have the money or the time! We understand this.)

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Needs Assessment 2009  

www.choose-hope.org

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