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The Social Policy Reader

Here is your weekly prompt of social policy books and articles that will open your mind (click on links for sources)

The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

Daniel Hatcher describes the triangle of federal-state-agency collaborations that take money and exploit vulnerable populations. The analysis is polemic and eye-opening. Readers interested in child welfare, long term care, TANF programs, juvenile justice, and Medicaid will learn a great deal about the conversion of mission in these programs to revenue streams for non-profit and for-profit organizations. Hatcher pulls back the veil on an important set of financial and organizational changes occurring in human services.

Impossible Choices: Hunger and Teens

This Urban Institute project demonstrates how day-to-day hunger brings very large numbers of teenagers to engage in risky and often criminal behavior. The research team estimates that 6.8 million teenagers age 10-17 are hungry. The report proposes programmatic solutions to hunger among youth. While there has been much attention given to the effects of food insecurity on young children, this research documents the particular challenges that adolescents face in accessing food as well as the stigma and risk-taking that occur because they are teenagers in environments of such hardship.

Tackling Persistent Poverty: Three Challenges for the 10-20-30 Plan

This Brookings paper by Elizabeth Kneebone is a policy analyst’s response to several of the basic principles of Hillary Clinton’s anti-poverty plan (based on Jim Clyburn’s so-called 10-20-30 proposal and discussed in an earlier Social Policy post). Kneebone dissects the implications of using counties as the unit of analysis, distribution of funds to federal agencies (including Agriculture), and emphasizing cash assistance as opposed to community capacity-building.

Population Aging and Economic Growth

While there has been much speculation on the effect of population aging on growth, there has been little recent serious empirical analysis. In this NBER working paper, Nicole Maestas, Kathleen Mullen, and David Powell use variations in state demographic changes to project macro effects. Overall, they estimate that a 10 percent increase in the proportion of the population 60 and over can decrease per capita GDP growth by 5.5 percent.

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime

Elizabeth Hinton’s sweeping and gut-wrenching account connects the histories of race, the war on poverty, the war on crime, the war on drugs, and the evolution of the for-profit criminal justice industry to the mass incarceration of African American men.  Hinton argues that “National priorities increasingly shifted from fighting black youth poverty to black youth crime….as policymakers introduced new patrol and surveillance measures in urban communities. In the absence of programs that provided a concrete means to access decent shelter, education, and employment, poverty and crime increased in the ensuing 15 years of the national law enforcement program.  That the crime control strategies federal policymakers developed proved to have the opposite impact in cities and neighborhoods that they placed under siege is one of the most disturbing ironies in the history of American domestic policy.” 

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