Tag Archives: poverty

The Young And The Penniless: 25-35 Age Group Vulnerable To Poverty

My Article For Voice Of Russia

WASHINGTON (VOR)— Much ado has been made about the purportedly entitled Millenial generation, but the reality of most young people’s lives is more akin to an urban dystopia than an utopia.

Few topics in public discourse are more plagued by pervasive myths and misconceptions than poverty, especially about how and to whom it happens. Poverty, Dr. Mark Rank points out, is a surprisingly commonplace experience. “The question for most Americans is not whether they will experience it at some point but when.” Dr. Rank and long-time collaborator Thomas Hirschl of Cornell University are releasing a new book in February 2014 entitled Chasing the American Dream: Understanding the Dynamics that Shape Our Fortunes. It explores the shifting nature of the American Dream—how tenuous it has become, how has the concept morphed over time, and how economically viable it is. Dr. Rank describes the methodology in the book as based on a “large longitudinal panel of data from 1968 to 2009 and from it, we generated a life table of the likelihood of experiencing particular economic events, thus quantifying the measure of ‘economic insecurity.’ The book also includes interviews with 75 people, as a way for us to study their responses on the question of the American dream.”

Mark Rank’s research indicates that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line during that period ($23,492 for a family of four), and 54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line). Yet, the group of young adults aged between 25 and 35 seems be especially susceptible to financial peril. As the figure below illustrates, almost 40% of young adults spend at least a year living below 150% of the poverty line. “Young adults have always been at the greatest risk for economic instability as this is typically a low point in their income earning ability,” Dr. Rank explains. But undoubtedly their economic hardships have been compounding in recent years.
The way that Dr. Rank measured the variable of economic security was living below the poverty line, loss of job, or being on some sort of public assistance program, like welfare or food stamps. The employment status of young adults was a large contributing factor to their economic insecurity. Fewer Americans aged 18 to 29 worked full-time for an employer in June 2013 (43.6%) than did so in June 2012 (47.0%), according to Gallup’s Payroll to Population employment rate. Fewer young adults with a college degree now hold a full-time job than did so in June 2012 (68.9%) and in June 2010 (67.9%). Similarly, fewer young Americans without a college degree have a full-time job now than in June of the previous three years. And as Dr. Rank’s research indicates, unemployment in that age group is the highest of any age group.
According to a Pew study, since 2010, the share of young adults ages 18 to 24 currently employed (54%) has been its lowest since the government began collecting these data in 1948. And the gap in employment between the young and all working-age adults—roughly 15 percentage points—is the widest in recorded history. In addition, young adults employed full time have experienced a greater drop in weekly earnings (down 6%) than any other age group over the past four years.
And what about the white picket fence part of the American dream? Home ownership is becoming less and less attainable to young adults, even in cities with high concentrations of upwardly mobile young people like Washington, DC.
According to the research of William H. Fray from Brookings, while homeownership across all age groups fell by 3 percentage points to 65 percent from 2007 to 2012, the drop-off among adults 25-29 was much larger — more than 6 percentage points, from 40.6 percent to 34.3 percent. Declines in homeownership for those ages 40 and older over in that five-year period were more modest.
The District of Columbia, with its high share of young adults, had the lowest homeownership rate across all age groups at 41.6 percent, followed by New York at 53.9 percent.
Being young puts one in a precarious economic position, but being non-white seems to especially exacerbate the problem. “If you are white, there is a fairly large chance that you will experience economic instability at some point in your life. If you are African-American or Hispanic, this chance now becomes almost a certainty. In the 25-60 bracket of white respondents, a very significant percentage—80%– had experienced one or more economically calamitous events. In the 25-60 age group of non-white respondents, 90% had experienced the same economic insecurity,” Dr. Rank explains.
So what does this all say about the attainability of the American dream? Dr. Rank thinks that concept, while not entirely rendered null, has certainly morphed. “The American dream is no longer about making it big or making a lot of money. Our respondents felt that it now meant leading the kind of life that you want and makes you happy. They also pointed to it being the idea that if you work hard, you should be able earn a decent living and be in a secure economic position. The third component was the importance of having a hope for the future, a certain optimism that one’s children and ensuing generations would fare as well or better.”

Share My Dabba: The Big Impact Of A [Small And Sticky] Message

My Ministers of Design Blog Post

Mumbai is a city of gross disparities, a monolith of have and have nots, where the chasm between the rich and the poor is more like an uncrossable abyss than a gap, with over 8 million of its dwellers living in slums. The growing income disparity is a sweeping trend that has, sadly, become all too prevalent in an increasingly globalized world, driving a wedge between the rich and the poor, who are having a hard time accessing even the most basic of social services. As the Share My Dabba video shows, every day 1.6 million people in Mumbai have food in their dabba, while 200,000 children go starving. The Happy Life Welfare Society, an Indian NGO, decided to do something about this, having worked on previous campaigns like Spread Some Warmth and Share Your Wealth.
Advertising agency McCann came on board to help the NGO figure out the strategy and came up with the “share” sticker. Whoever wanted to share his/her lunch put a sticker on the dabba. Next, however, came the more difficult step–how to collect the food and distribute it to the children without disrupting the to-the-minute-precision of the daballawah system, a Forbes Six Sigma certified system for its accuracy and a Harvard Business School case study. Every day, 5000 Dabbawalas deliver 200,000 boxes per day using only bicycles, relying on a complex series of collection zones, sorting points, and delivery zones, supported only by a manual coding system.
So as not to disturb the intricate time balance of the system, volunteers gathered at the point where dabbawallahs assemble after having collected the tiffin boxes after lunch; there, they initially used to empty the food from the containers into plastic bags and plates and give it to the children. But a much better system was devised–The Happy Life Welfare Society went to the slums and told kids and their families about the distribution point so, now, they just come there with their own utensils and are served food directly from the dabbas. All of this has to work with clockwork precision as there can be no delay in the dabawallah system–so the whole process is completed in 15 minutes.
The lesson that The Happy Life Welfare Society also learned is the importance of actually talking to people to get one’s message across, i.e. literally the legwork. To accomplish the involved planning needed for the success of this operation, volunteers had to talk to shopkeepers, workers, and office goers to make them want to share the dabba and involve them in the process, as well as the children living in the slums and their families. It would be impossible to introduce the system into a new part of the city without that educational campaign, states Kanupriya Singh, the Vice President of The Happy Life Welfare Society. There was a PR challenge from another avenue as well–addressing the critics who took umbrage to children eating messy leftovers, so the people sharing their dabbas had to also be encouraged and educated on only sharing clean food.
Share My Dabba is an excellent example of the wonderful confluence that happens when the message aligns with the successful execution of the thought behind it. A minimalistic approach lends itself well to snappy branding and messaging, but the importance of some good ol’-fashioned talking to people is also clearly underscored in this example.