Tag Archives: poverty

There’s No App for Child Care Deserts

New Orleans       When I hit a dead spot where I can’t listen to WAMF 90.3, our community radio station in New Orleans, I will switch for a minute or two to the stations to the left or right of the dial.  There was a discussion on something the broadcaster was calling a “child care desert,” as it turned out, but what I was hearing in the beginning was the standard Silicon Valley-style gospel that there’s “an app for that.”

There were several startups trying to pitch applications that would match parents desperate for child care with people willing and able to provide it.  Their angle involved two channels of recruitment.  On one side they were advertising for would-be small entrepreneurs, largely women, many of them bound to the house with their on small children in their own parched child care desert.  These apps would help them through the process of licensure and set up, and then also help them locate parents looking for that service.  The app-people’s business model was based on taking 10% of the monthly payment for each child enrolled in the new childcare operation.  The woman being interviewed was six-months into the system.  She and her husband had spent $15,000 outfitting their basement in one our western states.  She was now licensed to handle six children, one of whom was her on child.  She was charging $1000 per month, so her gross would have been $5000 minus $500, and then the rest of the expenses of paying back the home loan, food, supplies, and whatever.  She was working alone, and the hours were way over forty per week.  Maybe she was making half of that as her salary, let’s say $2250, which would put her at around $27,000 gross in the best of circumstances, and of course she was accruing some value by having her own child in her own child care.   She said she was Ok, but she didn’t pretend it was heaven.

According to the most recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) a year ago on child care deserts, it’s not pretty for parents in America looking for child care, if they can find it.  They define child care deserts as areas where there are fewer than one provider for every three children under five years of age.  Rural areas have it worse with 59% of the US census tracts in such deserts, but urban areas are right behind at 56% experiencing this situation in their census tracts.  They don’t count childcare provided by friends, parents and grandparents because it is statistically uncertain and unmeasured.  They find women’s unemployment is 3% less in census tracts with child care shortages like these.

Cost is out of control.  $1000 a month per child is a lot of money unless you’re making a pile.  Combine that with low wages for both workers and parents, and this has the making of a child care disaster more than a desert.  Little wonder families are having less children and waiting later when they do so.  We aren’t hearing as much during this election cycle about child care for all as we did in 2016, but this is a huge problem in search of a big solution.


Fake Math Drives Bad Policies for the Poor

New Orleans        The old saw reminded us about numbers and other lies, essentially that numbers don’t lie, but liars use numbers. Sad, but true.  I was reminded of this the other day when I read that the U. S. Department of Labor counts an individual as employed if they work for even one (1) hour during the survey week. Measurements of the poverty rate in the United States are equally bizarre and as widely manipulated.

The first determination of the poverty line was crafted in 1963 by a statistician for the Social Security Administration, Mollie Orshansky.  Her baseline was the food basket.  From a 1955 survey she determined the average cost of feeding families of varying sizes, and then multiplied by three, presuming that food was one-third of the living cost for the family.  Slow walk forward more than fifty-five years and, amazingly, her numbers, adjusted for inflation, continue to be the math behind the madness.

In 2019, it’s housing and childcare that suck the life out of lower income family budgets.  Food is still critical obviously.  Almost 16 million Americans used food banks in 2017, according to the Census Bureau, and 46 million use food banks according to the food bank network calculations.  Food stamp benefits only average $1.40 per meal, which doesn’t get anyone that far. Still the rising cost of housing is estimated to take 50% of income for families making less than $30,000, which is a budget buster for the poor.

Even a conservative source like The Economist argues that the deficiencies in the poverty line measurements “fuel the perception that safety-net programs have had no positive effect.”  In looking at the defects of the measure, they state clearly that, “The most significant is that income is calculated before taxes and transfers, meaning that poverty-reducing effects of the earned-income credit or food stamps is ignored.”  Alternative measurements based on measuring supplemental poverty and consumption have advantages.

There’s also general agreement that starting from the bottom, which means the measurement of absolute poverty, beggars the relief – and equity – that can come from anti-poverty programs.  Other countries, Britain for example, classify the poor as a percentage of median income, in their case 60%.  In the US, the poverty line is now at 26% of median income compared to 1975 when it was 40% of median income.  Inequity is in fact increasing the gap between not only the poor and the rich, but the poor and literally everyone else, making the measure and the programs either meager or punitive.

Ignoring cost of living differences also burdens the poor tremendously, and allows conservative ideologues, remember former Speaker of the US House Paul Ryan, to debunk the value of anti-poverty programs and argue for more stringent work requirements.  Such requirements fly in the face of the fact that the vast majority of the poor are children, elderly, and disabled, rather than the mythic able-bodied slacker.

It’s one thing for policy makers to ignore poor families and refuse to lift a finger to pull the voting lever on programs to lift the poor out of poverty, but why is necessary to lie about it and fabricate the numbers?


Please enjoy Chevy Girl by Jennie J.

Thanks to KABF.