June 29, 2016

Can you tackle poverty without taking on place?

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and social immobility. However, there is little mention of the role that place plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity. Growing research shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. This article from the Urban Institute discusses the importance of place on poverty and makes several policy recommendations.

By Solomon Greene, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and former NFG board member

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and help Americans move up the economic ladder. The plan begins and ends with the premise that “The American Dream is the idea that, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.” In between, however, there is scant mention of the role that place (i.e., where you come from) plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity.

This is a glaring omission, especially in light of the plan’s insistence on grounding poverty-reduction policies in the best available evidence. The evidence shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. Better understanding the mechanisms by which zip codes determine destiny and identifying effective strategies to sever the connection between poverty and place should be central to any federal antipoverty plan.

The poor are increasingly concentrated in poor neighborhoods

Since 2000, poor people have become increasingly concentrated in poor neighborhoods, a trend that has accelerated since the Great Recession. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, both the number of extremely poor neighborhoods (those with at least 40 percent of residents living below the poverty line) and the share of poor people who live in them have spiked in recent years. Nationally, the number of extreme-poverty census tracts more than doubled between 2000 and 2010-2014. And concentrated poverty increased in 67 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas since the Great Recession.

This trend coincides with a widening gap between rich and poor neighborhoods. As my colleagues Rolf Pendall and Carl Hedman recently demonstrated, the disparities between America’s most- and least-affluent neighborhoods have grown rapidly over the past two decades. They find that the rich and the poor are living farther apart geographically and in terms of neighborhood quality. These patterns concentrate poverty and privilege at the same time.

The effects of concentrated poverty are strong and lasting

Recent research also sheds light on the effects of growing up in poor neighborhoods across a broad range of life outcomes. Raj Chetty and colleagues find that children who move from a high-poverty neighborhood to a low-poverty one are far more likely to attend college and earn significantly more as adults than those who don’t move or move to another high-poverty area. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that life expectancies can differ by as much as 20 years between rich and poor neighborhoods within the same city. And Patrick Sharkey’s research demonstrates how neighborhood disadvantage is passed on from generation to generation.

This recent research reinforces earlier studies on neighborhood effects that suggest that growing up in a poor neighborhood amplifies the effects of growing up poor. As a recent Vox article evocatively framed it, research shows that living in a poor neighborhood is “like breathing in bad air; the more you’re exposed to it, the more it hurts you.”

Simply put, the evidence tells us that when tackling poverty, place matters.

How federal antipoverty policies could take on place

Recognizing the tight and powerful connection between place and poverty, a federal antipoverty plan that takes on place should at least include the following three components.

  1. Remove barriers to affordable housing development in opportunity-rich neighborhoods. Local experiments—such as those in Mount Laurel, NJ, and Montgomery County, MD—have demonstrated that siting affordable housing in wealthier communities can help lift families out of poverty by giving them access to better schools and neighborhood amenities.
  2. Improve housing mobility, allowing recipients of housing assistance greater choice in where they live. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed changing how it sets values for federal housing vouchers, a change that research suggests could help people move to neighborhoods with lower poverty rates. However, landlord discrimination against voucher holders is prevalent in many places. Federal protections against source-of-income discrimination might be necessary to realize the full potential of the voucher program to lift families out of poverty.
  3. Invest in comprehensive revitalization strategies in poor neighborhoods. The Urban Institute has documented lessons learned from decades of place-based investments by the federal government. We found that the most effective strategies work both horizontally (integrating efforts across policy domains within a neighborhood) and vertically (activating city, state, and federal policy levers and resources).

But perhaps most fundamentally, policymakers and advocates can use place as an additional lens through which to evaluate federal antipoverty policies. Are policies designed not only to lift individuals out of poverty, but also to improve the places in which poor people live? How much do new policies reverse decades of federal policies that divided the country along lines of race and class and trapped the poor in neighborhoods deprived of decent schools, healthy foods, safe streets, and quality housing?

To realize the American Dream of equal opportunity and upward mobility, this may be just the place to begin.

This article originally appeared on Urban Wire as found here

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October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


 

Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.