Surviving American Racism

By Anne Price

Medium


A recent study led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau is intensifying the national discussion around income inequality. The findings once again confirm that economic inequality is largely driven by race, not class, and that class status is not permanent among Blacks. Moreover, the report indicates that racial income inequality is not tied to family background or individual effort.

Perhaps the most staggering conclusion of the study is that income inequality between Blacks and whites is fueled almost entirely by the racial discrimination Black boys and men face in their lives.

While these findings are significant, it’s important to emphasize that examining income inequality, particularly with a primary focus on only half the population, can only take us so far in understanding how social mobility is shaped, and how well-being is understood.

Click here to read more…

Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap

Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap provides a foundation for identifying and understanding root causes of the racial infant mortality gap, with the authors asserting it is necessary to isolate the fundamental reasons why black women in the United States are more likely to have preterm babies. The infant mortality rate is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births —resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada. In fact, black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States. The black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. In order to decrease the national infant mortality rate, the authors assert that factors that maintain these disparities must be addressed directly. There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation. Co-authored by Imari Z. Smith, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, Salimah El-Amin and William Darity Jr. of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, in conjunction with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, this research brief provides an overview of the social determinants that contribute to racial disparities in IMR. It also provides policy and research recommendations to improve outcomes for black babies and their mothers. Click here to view and download Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality GapFighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap, a new co-released report from the Insight Center and the Cook Center on Social Equity, provides a foundation for identifying and understanding root causes of the racial infant mortality gap.

The infant mortality rate (IMR) is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the IMR in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For Black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births — resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the Black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada.

Black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and the Black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation.

This report shows that it is time for policy makers to acknowledge this issue and develop strategies that effectively reduce Black infant mortality. The price for inaction is too high and has both social and economic implications for Black familiesFighting at Birth outlines suggested policies, programs, and strategies, catering specifically to the needs of Black women, in order to decrease the national Black IMR.

Click here to view and download Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap.

Personhood Before Work

By: Anne Price

Medium


Earlier this month, the Trump administration quietly announced that it will allow individual states to impose work requirements on “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients — those aged 19 to 64 who are not disabled — as a condition of eligibility.

There is ample evidence from other social safety net programs that work requirements do little to help support people in jobs over the long run, and are in fact more likely to push struggling families off the rolls and into deeper poverty.

Despite this evidence, ten states now have work or community engagement proposals pending with the administration, and Kentucky was the first to be approved. Kentucky officials have already hinted that those who qualified under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expansion will have to earn dentist and vision benefits by taking financial literacy classes or by getting a GED. Those who are not elderly or disabled will have to pay premiums and report changes to their income or employment status.

Why is there still popular support for work requirements when we know they further penalize struggling families? The answer is troubling, but simple: Americans have strongly held views about the connection of work to personhood.

Much of t­­­­­­he power of “work first” thinking comes from its close connection to people’s sense of what it means to be a Person. Insight’s research on economic security and race reveals that most Americans equate joblessness with a lack of agency, and thus being diminished as a person, or somehow less moral.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Utility Shutoffs Are Keeping Struggling Californians in the Dark

Medium

By: Anne Price


Energy is a basic need in a modern economy — some would even argue that uninterrupted energy service and electric power is a fundamental human right. Yet we are witnessing a growing energy crisis that has significant economic and health implications for struggling Californians — utility shutoffs.

In California, nearly 894,000 households live with income at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level ($10,210 for a family of three) and spend about 25 percent of their income just on utilities. That is five times the 5 percent spent by higher-income households (185–200 percent of the poverty level) for electricity, heating, and cooling. Blacks, Latinos, and renters in multifamily buildings tend to face the highest energy burdens. Make no mistake, this is an economic and racial justice issue.

Home energy is an expense that fluctuates widely and can create a nearly insurmountable financial burden for those who are already juggling household expenses. As a result, last year, utility service was cut off in 868,000 California households — representing 2.5 million people, mostly children, and marking a staggering 60% increase from the 547,000 households that experienced utility shutoffs in 2010.

Changing climate conditions paired with energy rate hikes are wreaking further havoc on families with limited and fixed incomes. Heat waves are more intense in California and last longer. Last year was the hottest year to date on record, and January 2017 was the third hottest January ever recorded.

At the same time, electricity rates were raised three times in the past year, making energy rates for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers an average of 21 percent higher than they were a year ago. And depending on PG&E’s potential culpability in the North Bay fires, consumers could face additional rate hikes to cover the costs of the damage. These kinds of rapidly successive price jumps are too much to handle for many families, and they further limit the impact of assistance programs that are already insufficient.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Photo: Michelle Hurwitz CC BY 2.0

Opinion: Income program must be paired with honest dialog on race

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Universal Basic Income — a policy idea whereby people receive unconditional funds to help meet their most essential needs — is making waves in California.

The city of Stockton is set to launch a three-year pilot program. And Y Combinator, which provides seed funding for startups, is designing a pilot project for Oakland.

Click here to read Jhumpa’s full op-ed.

Universal Basic Income: Reclaiming Our Time for Racial Justice

Medium

By Anne Price, President


It’s been 40 years since we witnessed a Women’s Convention challenging our nation to take up equal rights of women in education, work, and in their personal lives, but this past weekend nearly 5,000 people, mostly women, gathered in Detroit as part of the inaugural Women’s Convention with the theme of Reclaiming Our Time.

Inspired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ highly esteemed mantra “reclaiming my time,” convention speakers echoed the need to restore human dignity across a wide range of social, political and economic issues.

The Women’s Convention lifted up the role that social movements led by women of color have played in shaping current proposals and actions to address discrimination, alienation, and exclusion. At the same time, the gathering recognized that the Women’s Movement has never amply included, let alone prioritized, Black women’s oppression and experiences in the struggle for gender justice.

We are in an important moment for women to exercise their moral agency to reclaim dignity and humanity in our economy and draw upon the legacy of historical movements. One of the most compelling ideas for reimagining our nation’s economic policies through this vision is Universal Basic Income (UBI), a progressive policy proposal that is gaining traction in the national conversation.

The basic tenet behind UBI is to give every American a stipend so that all children and families have the funds to meet their most essential needs — with their dignity and self-efficacy intact. The most common UBI proposal is to give people unconditional cash grants of about $12,000 per adult annually, with variances for true costs of living. This amount would help families create an income floor to meet basic needs like shelter, food, and transportation.

While UBI has gained mainstream attention as a possible solution to automation and job loss, when it comes to the full promise — and historical roots — of UBI, we have some reclaiming to do.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Organizers and volunteers from the National Welfare Rights Organization, marching to end hunger in 1968. Source: Anna Julia Cooper Center, Wake Forest University

Opinion: Environmental legislation leaves low-income behind

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

The passage of two environmental bills — AB 398 and AB 617 — has been a hot topic these past weeks. The legislation extends California’s cap and trade program and aims to improve air quality in polluted communities.

Backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the new statutes have drawn mixed reaction in the environmental justice community. As they stand, they also retain a regressive, flat-rate pricing system that places an unfair economic burden on low-income families, who will continue to pay a higher percentage of their earnings toward energy costs in comparison to higher-income households.

To read Jhumpa’s full piece, click here.

Fifty is the New Forgotten

Medium By Anne Price, President
From Charlottesville to Hurricane Harvey to removing DACA, this past month has repeatedly reinforced one of the primary drivers of Insight’s work — the absolute necessity of focusing on the needs of communities who are almost never included in our policymaking and are almost always left short changed. We must remain vigilant in our fight to ensure the voices and needs of people of color, immigrants, low-income communities and women are front and center.

This includes the often overlooked women of Generation X, now in their 50s.

Women are often the glue that holds families and communities together, too frequently sacrificing their own financial stability and emotional well-being for their family and friends. Increasingly, the economic security of today’s families rest on the shoulders of women. Two thirds of mothers play a significant role in the financial well-being of their families. Yet women are paid less, are crowded into certain occupations, and work in jobs that lack wealth escalators, consequentially hurting families and communities.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

Living in a World They Didn’t Make: A Look at Millennial Women

Medium

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

The United States has a storied history of strong, fierce women fighting for equal rights and opportunity. Every mother hopes her daughter will fare better than she, facing fewer obstacles and less discrimination, and benefitting from a more equitable society.

As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and commemorate the adoption of the 19th amendment, it’s important to acknowledge our progress toward equity. But it is equally important that we acknowledge that, for Millennial women — those born from the early 1980s through the early 2000s — the gains have faltered.

Coming of age during the Great Recession and the push for mass incarceration, these women grew up in troubling economic and social times.

To read Jhumpa’s full piece, click here.

Photo courtesy; Jovan J of Flickr Creative Commons

Opinion: Level the college playing field for black women

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Dzifa is a hard-working, immigrant woman who overcame some serious odds to recently get her Ph.D from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Public Health. Highly educated and gainfully employed with a coveted post doctoral fellowship position, Dzifa is closer to achieve her dream of conducting research to make a difference in the lives of women in her home country, Ghana. It seems Dzifa is winning at life by most standards.

Yet, Dzifa’s accomplishments also come at a huge price. Financing her education on her own, she carries more than $100,000 in student debt. As a result, she lives on an extremely tight budget and grapples with finding side gigs to help her with the high cost of living and making her way out of this enormous debt. Rather than taking on research she knows can make a difference, she takes on projects that are stable and adequately funded.

To read Jhumpa’s full op-ed, click here.