Wealth and Poverty

Opportunity, inequality and the struggle to make a buck

RECENT POSTS

How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

Map: If California Split into Six States, This is What It’d Look Like

Includes interactive map

Click on different points of the map below to see which counties would be part of each one of California’s six new states, as outlined in a new proposed ballot initiative. Per capita income and population figures are listed for each proposed “state,” based on analysis by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. [Read the story under the map for more context].

legend

California’s Secretary of State this week gave a wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist the green light to start collecting petition signatures for a proposed ballot initiative to split California into separate jurisdictions.

Tim Draper, who has made a fortune investing in web start-ups like Skype, argues that the Golden State is too massive to effectively govern as a single body, and wants to divide it into six independent smaller states. Continue reading

What’s the Link Between Economics and Crime in America’s Most Violent Cities?

Includes interactive chart
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One of Detroit’s many abandoned factories (Wikipedia)

A city’s high violent crime rate can result from any number of societal factors, and attempts at pinpointing can quickly turn into a tricky — if not specious — exercise.

While it’s easy enough to find correlations, proving causation becomes a far greater challenge: just because two variables occur simultaneously does not mean one was the cause of the other. For instance, even though most violent cities also have higher-than-average unemployment rates, not all all cities with high unemployment rates are violent. And while some perennially high-crime cities clearly suffer from a shortage of police officers, many relatively safe cities also have a low rate of officers per population.

Continue reading

America, the Land of Opportunity? Not for Most Poor Kids, One Study Finds

Includes cartoon infographic


Contrary to the mantra commonly touted by politicians on the campaign trail, few Americans born into poverty ever get to experience the iconic rise from “rags to riches.”

A new study by a team of UC Berkeley and Harvard economists examined upward income mobility throughout the nation, finding that less than 8 percent of people born at the bottom 20 percent of the income ladder ever climb to the top 20 percent as adults. The study, though, also found that geographic location can significantly impact those odds. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. Continue reading

How Poverty Is Measured in America, Explained in Two Cartoons

Includes video and cartoon infographics

During his State of the Union Address delivered 50 years ago on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” At the time, roughly 19 percent of Americans were living below the newly developed federal poverty line. Johnson’s declaration ushered in a wave of social welfare legislation — part of a set of domestic reforms that became known as “The Great Society.” It led to the creation of health and education safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps. By 1969, when he left office, the poverty rate had dropped by more than a third, to about 12 percent. Continue reading

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

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In One-Day Strike, Fast-Food Workers Demand A Living Wage

Includes video
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Workers and advocates demonstrate outside of a McDonald’s in Oakland last summer. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Fast-food workers at restaurants in more than 100 cities across the country, including Oakland and other East Bay cities, are walking off the the job today in a push for a major wage hike.

Backed by organized labor, the one-day actions are part of a year-old campaign to highlight the difficulties low-wage workers face in paying for basic living costs.

Following on the heels of similar protests last summer, demonstrators are demanding a wage of $15 an hour, a significant — though unlikely — raise from the current average fast-food industry wage of less than $9 an hour. Continue reading

Thanksgiving on Food Stamps, by the Numbers

Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier

Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier

For the record 47 million people who rely on food stamps — about 1 in 7 Americans —  paying the cost of a full Thanksgiving meal tomorrow may be a bit tougher than it was last year.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

On Nov. 1, monthly benefits for most families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were reduced by about 5 percent. That amounts to roughly $36 in cuts per month for a family of four — from $668 to $632 — based on maximum benefit levels, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency overseeing the program. The reductions stem from Congress’ refusal to renew about $5 billion in additional benefits that were provided as part of the 2009 stimulus bill. 

So how does that translate in Thanksgiving dollars?

In its annual survey, the Farm Bureau Federation — a conservative group — calculated the average cost (nationwide) of all the standard fixings in a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people at about $49 – or $4.90 per person. Even assuming the cheapest ingredients and small portion sizes, it’s a very conservative and somewhat dubious estimate and obviously varies significantly by region. But for the sake of argument, let’s use it. (See the last Lowdown post for the breakdown of costs.)  

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Poverty Line Problems: The History of an Outdated Measurement (Infographic)

Includes Cartoon Infographic

Poverty_Line_Problems_Slice6Following up on his last cartoon infographic exploring “the poverty threshold” in the United States, graphic journalist Andy Warner digs into the concept behind “the poverty line,” the origins of that measurement and why it’s considered so outdated today. View it below in full, or in segments as a slideshow. Continue reading

A Public Transit Guide to Income Inequality in the Bay Area

Includes interactive maps/charts

Muni_linesAs Bay Area commuters once again brace for the possibility of a prolonged BART strike and look to alternative transportation means, it seems apropos to feature this innovative multimedia piece: a collection of some of the region’s major public transit lines and the dramatic income disparities that exist among the communities living along those routes. Continue reading