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from Data Dive:

Clawing out of poverty

Finally, the U.S. poverty rate is moving in the right direction.

For the first time since 2006, the poverty rate declined last year — to 14.5 percent from 15 percent in 2012 — according to a new report out by the Census Bureau. “Last year's decrease appeared driven by fewer people relying on part-time work, as the survey found an additional 2.8 million Americans were working full-time during the year,” writes Jason Lange.

While that’s good news, the report also says that median household income increased by less than $200, to $51,939 — a gain that isn’t deemed statistically significant. Americans still earn about $5,000 less at the median than they did in 2007. Nor is the new rate reason for unequivocal celebration: Lange notes that the poverty rate was still 2 percentage points higher than it was seven years earlier.

Here's how the poverty rate, as well as the absolute number of of people in poverty, have changed in the last half century:

 

poverty

from Breakingviews:

Global poverty needs a post-industrial definition

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Global poverty needs a new, post-industrial definition.

The $1-a-day threshold, the most-often cited marker of penury, is an anachronistic legacy from the time when being able to fill a human stomach could be reasonably equated with putting raw manpower to productive use in farms, factories and on construction sites.

from The Great Debate:

Think everything on a dollar menu costs a dollar? Think again.

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How expensive are those everyday low prices? How much do things really cost on that fast-food restaurant's dollar menu? The answer is more than you think, but maybe not for the reason you think.

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, the current name for food stamps) is often thought of as something for the unemployed, though nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, 73 percent of those enrolled in the country's major public benefits programs are from working families, just stuck in jobs whose paychecks don't cover life's basic necessities.

from Reihan Salam:

Paul Ryan’s promising new plan to end poverty

Ryan speaks at the SALT conference in Las Vegas

Paul Ryan has long been known as the GOP’s budget guru. With the release of his new report on expanding opportunity in America -- the most ambitious conservative anti-poverty agenda since the mid-1990s -- he is on the cusp of becoming something much more than that.

Loved by the right and loathed by the left, Ryan has been the architect of the most consequential Republican domestic policy initiatives of the Obama era. In spirit if not in name, Ryan spent much of President Obama’s first term as the leader of the opposition, rallying Republicans against Obamacare and in favor of long-term spending reductions. His controversial calls for entitlement and tax reform as chairman of the House Budget Committee were singled out by the president for over-the-top denunciation. In the spring of 2012, well before Ryan was named the Republican vice-presidential nominee, the president went so far as to characterize the Wisconsin congressman’s budget proposal as “thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Living the Peruvian dream

Gosen City, Lima, Peru
By Mariana Bazo

Life in the settlements on the outskirts of Lima can be very hard, but years of economic growth in Peru have helped benefit even some of its poorest residents. In one shantytown called Gosen City, a cluster of houses that grew up haphazardly around a garbage dump, this change is really starting to show.

Peru has experienced a decade-long boom, and although growth slowed somewhat last year, changes and development continue. The government has pledged to dramatically cut poverty rates, and while it still has a long way to go, around 490,000 Peruvians were raised out of poverty last year, according to official statistics.

from Breakingviews:

Review: China gives Africa handy investment lesson

By Stephanie Rogan

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

In the last decade nearly a million Chinese citizens have taken up residence in Africa. In his vivid new book, “China’s Second Continent,” Howard French tells stories of these migrants and the Africans whose lives they affect. The book weaves anecdotes and interviews with historical and geopolitical background to tell a larger tale of the PRC’s economic engagement in the continent. The result is an unflattering portrait of China’s involvement.

from The Great Debate:

Why not a war on child poverty?

President Barack Obama’s recent speeches at the LBJ Presidential Library and National Action Network marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act had a serious omission. While acknowledging “our work is unfinished,” Obama failed to mention this nation’s worst social trend: the stunning increase of children and youth living in poverty.

Since 1969, the proportion of children and youth in poverty rose by 56 percent, even as the economic fortunes of the elderly improved under programs like Medicare and Social Security. Today, 32 million American children and youth are confronting poverty -- including 7 million suffering utter destitution, another 9 million living in serious poverty and 16 million more in low-income households struggling just above poverty lines.

from The Great Debate:

Tackling inequality: Where a president meets a pope

There has been much speculation about President Barack Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday. One Catholic church authority asserted, “it is not the task of the pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality.” The pope got that message -- he wrote it himself in his first official “Papal Exhortation” last year.

Yet Francis has also asserted that his papacy has a “grave responsibility” to  “exhort all the communities to an ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times” -- particularly to know the face of the poor and outcast.

from The Edgy Optimist:

If the world is getting richer, why do so many people feel poor?

In a widely-read statement in his annual foundation letter, Bill Gates took an unabashedly optimistic approach to the world this week. Not only did he tout the massive material progress evident everywhere in the world over the past decades, but he also predicted that as more countries accelerate their transformation from rural poverty to urban middle class societies, poverty as we know it will disappear within the next two decades. “By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world,” Gates wrote. “Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer.”

With an economy of words, Gates makes clear that he understands the issues. Yes, worldwide there is still immense poverty as defined by critically low incomes or GDP per capita, including less than $500 a year in Ethiopia, less than that in the vast and dysfunctional Democratic Republic of Congo, even less in Burundi and who knows what in North Korea. All of those countries, Gates predicts, will be substantially wealthier in twenty years.

from Photographers' Blog:

Chicago’s doctor to the homeless

Chicago, Illinois

By Jim Young


“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” —Dalai Lama

“What size boots do you wear?” Dr. Patrick Angelo asks a homeless man as he looks down at his worn sneakers. “Here, take my boots, I will give you mine,” and proceeds to give him the boots off his feet, right then and there, in 5 degree Fahrenheit weather to a complete stranger under an overpass in downtown Chicago.

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