Getting Child Care Off the Mommy Track

Child care is more than just a “women’s issue.”

Long relegated to the back bench of “mommy issues,” child care may finally get its chance on the national policy stage.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has made child care access a signature plank of her nascent agenda, urging middle class tax cuts to make child care more affordable and endorsing universal preschool. The Washington Post also recently devoted rare front-page space and a poll to this topic, finding that more than half of all parents (including three-quarters of moms and half of dads) have passed up job opportunities or even switched careers to help take care of their children.

Surveys show that millennial workers especially treasure work-life balance. And as more of the oldest members of this cohort – now entering their mid-thirties – become parents, child care access and affordability will increasingly become a concern.

These are all welcome developments for those of us who’ve long believed that child care is a universal economic concern – not just for mothers, but for fathers, grandparents, non-parents and employers, regardless of income or education. The cost and quality of child care have enormous impacts not just on parents’ career choices, but on a family’s quality of life, the productivity that employers see and – of course – the wellbeing and future success of a child. Nevertheless, policymakers have consistently treated child care as a niche-within-a-niche inside larger agendas around “women’s issues” or poverty.

Now that child care has a shot at front burner status, one way to keep it there is to ensure its broad relevance – and to avoid the policy and messaging traps that could make it too polarizing or insignificant. Here are a few ideas to help make child care an integral component of a broadly appealing “middle class” agenda:

Continued at the Washington Monthly…


Fixing Food Deserts, One Grocery Store at a Time

Alabama joins a growing list of states promoting supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods.

In and around Birmingham, Alabama, fast food is more than easy to find.

A search for “fast food” on serves up a smorgasbord of options, including Chick-Fil-A (20 locations), McDonald’s (38 shops), Taco Bell (24 stores), and Church’s Chicken (19 outlets), as well as multiple locations for Hardee’s, Krystal, Burger King, Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen, Bojangles, Sonic, Whataburger, Wendy’s, Subway and Jack’s.

Supermarkets, on the other hand, are much scarcer. The grocery store chain Aldiboasts just three locations in Birmingham proper, while the more upscale Fresh Market chain owns just one store.

In fact, according to a report by The Food Trust, large swathes of Alabama are “food deserts” lacking access to supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetables and other healthier foods. Nearly 1.8 million Alabama residents – including half a million children – live in low-income areas without adequate access to full-service groceries, the report concludes.

“People are traveling 10 to 20 miles outside their communities to purchase food,” says Jada Shaffer, campaign manager for the non-profit VOICES for Alabama Children, which commissioned the study along with the Alabama Grocers Association.

And that’s assuming people have transportation. More often than not, Shaffer says, families are relying on what’s nearby: gas stations, convenience stores – and fast food.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama has among the highest obesity rates in the country. More than 32 percent of Alabama adults are obese, while 35 percent of children are overweight.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

Manufacturing’s Branding Crisis

Millennials could save U.S. manufacturing from a severe looming talent shortage – but they need to be interested first.

Despite a gradually recovering job market, many millennials still feel their job prospects are dim. One Federal Reserve survey found that just 45 percent of young workers ages 18 to 30 are “optimistic about their job future,” and that only 29 percent of young workers have held the same job for one year.

But millennials might have more reason for optimism if they considered an industry they’re currently overlooking: manufacturing.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

The Myth of Mobility

A new study finds that the best way to get ahead is to be born there.

Americans enjoy an enduring belief that by dint of hard work and perseverance, anyone can attain the American dream.

Surveys find that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe it’s “still possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich,” while also discounting the value of family background and connections in achieving success. In a 2014 surveyby the Pew Research Center, just 18 percent of Americans said “belonging to a wealthy family” was “very important” for getting ahead.

But a mounting pile of evidence is beginning to show that family background is, in fact, determinative. Family incomes, for example, are highly correlated to rates of college attendance and completion.

Adding to this evidence is a new study – based on a unique longitudinal analysis of income tax data – finding that children largely inherit the income prospects of their parents.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

How Obamacare Is Winning Young Invincibles

More than 5.7 million young Americans have become insured since 2010.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, one of the biggest unknowns was this: Would enough young, healthier Americans sign up for Obamacare to keep the fledgling health insurance marketplace viable?

“Young invincibles,” many believed, were critical for balancing out the older, sicker – and more expensive – enrollees who would otherwise dominate the market. Without enough younger participants, experts feared, the market would see a “death spiral” of rising premiums that could lead to its eventual collapse.

But since 2010, more than 5.7 million young Americans ages 19-to-25 have gained coverage, according to government figures, including significant numbers of African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities. And of the 8.84 million Americans who chose a plan during the most recent open enrollment period, 28 percent were millennials ages 18-to-34. These figures are all the more remarkable given that in 2010, the uninsured rate among 19-to-25 year olds was 34.1 percent – more than double the uninsured rate among the population as a whole.

How is Obamacare winning millennials?

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

Growing numbers of benefit companies pursue both purpose and profit

30 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation legally recognizing “triple bottom line” businesses.

Among the many dozens of delivery vehicles that hit the streets of Portland, Oregon, every morning, B-Line’s colorful “cargo trikes” stand out.

Looking something like pedicabs on steroids, the company’s electrically boosted but human-powered vehicles can haul up to 600 pounds of goods. Every morning, B-Line’s fleet of eight trikes deploys itself across Portland, delivering organic produce, coffee and artisanal bread before switching to parcel deliveries for the remainder of the day.

The company calculates that since its founding in 2009, when it began with just two trikes, it’s made more than 10,000 deliveries and – more importantly – reduced carbon emissions by an estimated 350,000 pounds.

“We aim to be a more environmentally and social friendly delivery service for inner cities,” says company founder and CEO Franklin Jones.

More than that, B-Line is legally obligated to pursue its social mission. Along with a growing number of socially-conscious businesses across the country, B-Line is a “benefit company” with special legal status under state law.

Under this legislation – variations of which have also been adopted in 29 other states and the District of Columbia – businesses choosing to be “benefit companies” must include a social purpose in its charter, adopt a third-party standard and prepare an annual report for shareholders assessing how well it met its social goals.

Continued at the Washington Monthly...

Segregation’s Impacts on Latino Education and Earnings

Latinos achieve lower earnings and education in the nation’s most segregated cities, says a new study.

Latinos are America’s largest, fastest growing – and perhaps most geographically concentrated – group.

According to the Census Bureau, more than half of the nation’s 54 million Latinos live in just three states – California, Texas, and Florida. The Pew Research Centerreports that the nation’s 100 largest counties by Latino population also include 71 percent of all Latinos.

While some research argues for an “enclave effect” that benefits minorities who live together, a new study from researchers at New York University’s Furman Centerfinds worrisome impacts associated with increasing Latino segregation in major metropolitan areas. In particular, the researchers find a direct correlation between higher levels of segregation and lower rates of education and job market success.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

Revisiting Welfare Reform

A potential update to welfare reform is no substitute for poverty reduction.

In an effort to jumpstart a fresh debate on welfare reform, Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee recently released a “discussion draft” of a bill overhauling the nation’s current welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Billed as the “biggest redesign of TANF in its history,” the draft legislation includes a variety of provisions aimed at tightening the law’s current work requirements and holding states more accountable for moving recipients into work.

“Work is the only way for people to really escape poverty and achieve the American Dream, and we are eager to help more families succeed at doing just that,” said House Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) at a hearing in July.

Unlike some past conservative efforts at welfare reform, the current discussion draft contains several elements intended to court bipartisan support. While the focus on work is a must for conservatives – as well as for many moderates – the proposal also expands the kinds of activities that count as “work” and maintains funding at current levels. According to National Journal, both Republican and Democratic staffers were involved in the drafting of this bill.

Given that Congress hasn’t passed a comprehensive update of welfare reform legislation since it was first enacted in 1996, the passage of bipartisan welfare legislation would indeed be a welcome achievement. In particular, the bill could solve some current problems with the way in which states are currently spending federal TANF dollars. For example, the Congressional Research Service reports that states spent just 6 percent of federal welfare dollars on work-related programs in fiscal 2013 – while spending 7 percent on administration.

Nevertheless, welfare reform is no substitute for poverty reduction, and Congress shouldn’t treat it as such. Rather, TANF reform is only one aspect of a broader agenda Congress should tackle to move families into work and self-sufficiency.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

One Man’s Crusade to Make Congress Work Better

Ban incumbents from campaigning against each other, says Sen. Joe Manchin, and require a five-day workweek.

Earlier this spring, speculation was mounting that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin would be leaving the Senate to run for his former job as governor of West Virginia.

Polls showed Manchin to be a heavy favorite, were he to become a candidate in 2016. An April 2015 survey, for example, showed Manchin with a 66 percent approval rating in the state and a 30-point lead over state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the leading GOP candidate.

But at the end of April, Manchin made a surprise announcement on Face the Nation: “I’m going to stay and I will run for reelection,” he said. “I know that the Senate is not working the way it was intended to and the way it’s supposed to. But I’m not going to stop fighting to make it work.”

Since coming to the Senate in 2010, Manchin has worked hard to cultivate a reputation for bipartisanship, including a high-profile effort with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey to expand background checks on gun sales. National Journal’s 2014 vote ratings put him squarely in the center ideologically, ranking him the 54th most liberal senator and the 46th most conservative.

“A party line vote doesn’t mean anything to me,” Manchin says. “If I can’t go home and explain it, I won’t vote for it. And a lot of this stuff doesn’t make sense.”

Continued at the Washington Monthly…

How to Fix High-Poverty High Schools

Affluent high schools have three things lower-income schools lack, says a new study.

A recent report from the nonprofit Pell Institute found jaw-dropping disparities in college-going and college completion rates based on a student’s family income.

Among students from households in the bottom income quartile (those earning less than $34,160 a year), just 45 percent go on to college – and only 9 percent eventually earn a bachelor’s degree. Among students from households in the top quartile, in contrast, 82 percent go on to college and 77 percent graduate.

Now a new report from CLASP helps shed light on why such glaring gaps exist. It also offers a blueprint for the specific resources that high-poverty schools need to help more students prepare for and succeed in college.

Continued at the Washington Monthly…