depressing demographics


Spent the afternoon at the RIT Board of Trustees meeting. We had a fascinating presentation by demographer Dr. Harold ("Bud") Hodgkinson.

Hodkinson is a wonderful presenter. But even his wit and presentation skills couldn't change the depressing nature of the numbers he shared with us.

Particularly striking--and distressing--were the numbers reflecting child poverty. Twenty-two percent of children in the United States live in poverty. Twenty-two percent. That's the highest rate of any developed nation. And yet, as Hodgkinson pointed out, there's little or no public outcry or outrage over this horrifying number.

He also showed numbers that illustrated just how bad the gaps are between the "haves" and the "have nots" in the US. For example, the US is #1 in the world in per capita spending on health care, but #29 in the world on life expectancy. And the top 20% income bracket in the US makes 49.6% of the total income, while the bottom 20% makes 3.6% of the total income.

Interesting food for thought. More tomorrow.


from a post on a klog apart...

These are hard numbers.

To me, they tell a story of a nation that is unfair. 1 in 5 children are going to bed hungry, arriving at school hungry. If there is a class war, the poor are losing. And the only legal path to upward economic mobility, education, is failing more people.

The American Dream, hope itself, denied.

So I'm sad. Frustrated. And angry.

I want my President to share my feelings. I want all my elected officials to know and understand the reality behind those numbers. I want them to sweat bullets every day that these numbers don't improve.

Argue over methods. But I'm pretty sure more tax breaks for the richest, public school funding cuts, teaching to the test, increased censorship, and prison build-outs are not part of the solution.

Clearly we must begin mass sterilization of poor people! And we must start forcing more women to become engineers!

(Beware the use of a single statistic as an indicator of a complex system. Be-more-ware the tendency to take action based on such a statistic.)

Thanks, Bill. Gosh, I wish my professors had thought to mention those pearls of wisdom during my research methods and statistics class. Think of all the wasted years it would have saved me.

I'll be sure to pass your warnings on to the folks at NSF who were foolish enough to give me $325,000 based on my use of "a single statistic as an indicator of a complex system," and my plan to begin forcing women into IT programs. (Don't need to force them into engineering, btw, since they're already going into engineering--and nearly every other field of study--in increasing numbers.)

Oh...wait...but I didn't do that.

Instead, let me add another warning to your list:

"Beware the tendency to jump to conclusions based on reading of brief weblog entries rather than full research proposals."

or, perhaps,

"Beware the tendency to pass judgment without first asking questions."

No doubt many, many children here in North America suffer from real deprivation. But I recently spent a month in South Africa, where one of our friends took us along to an AIDS orphan food aid centre that feeds 2000 children from child-headed families ... an experience to break one's heart.

Is it possible to get the presentation. I want to forward it to the Dean folks. Somebody has to spread the outrage.

I don't have the presentation, and it was overheads rather than ppt, so I suspect I won't be able to get it.

However, it all came straight from census data.

It all depends on what poverty means, anyway. How poor do you have to be before we say that you are "living in poverty?" Are all the people the census data says are living in poverty really having a bad life?

The poverty line is clearly defined, actually, not a judgment call.

Details on those measurements can be found on the Census Bureau site, under Poverty Threshholds.

Since we're talking about children living in poverty, I"ll ignore the "one-person households." For a family of two, the poverty threshhold is $11,752. For a family of three, it's $14,351. For a family of four, $18,390.

Those numbers are gross income (meaning _before_ taxes), not net.

A national study of apartment costs found that the average cost for an 800sf 3-room (not 3 bedroom), 1 bath apartment is $8,436. So for a single mother with two kids, that would leave ~5,000/year for *all* other expenses, including food, child care, medical costs, transportation, clothing, telephone, etc, etc.

Could you have a "good life" on that? Maybe. But you'd be the rare exception.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on July 17, 2003 11:06 PM.

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