Bruna Veríssimo, a youth from the hardscrabble streets of Recife, in Northeast Brazil, spoke with Tobias Hecht over the course of many years, reliving her early childhood in a raging and destitute home, her initiation into the world of prostitution at a time when her contemporaries had scarcely started school, and her coming of age against all odds.
Hecht had originally intended to write a biography of Veríssimo. But with interviews ultimately spanning a decade, he couldn't ignore that much of what he had been told wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. In Veríssimo’s recounting of her life, a sister who had never been born died tragically, while the very same rape that shattered the body and mind of an acquaintance occurred a second time, only with a different victim and several years later. At night, with the anthropologist’s tape recorder in hand, she became her own ethnographer, inventing informants, interviewing herself, and answering in distinct voices.
With truth impossible to disentangle from invention, Hecht followed the lead of Veríssimo, his would-be informant, creating characters, rendering a tale that didn’t happen but that might have, probing at what it means to translate a life into words.
A call and response of truth and invention, mental illness and yearning, After Life is a tribute to and reinterpretation of the Latin American testimonio genre. Desire, melancholy, longing, regret, and the hunger to live beyond the confines of past and future meet in this debut novel by Tobias Hecht.
Britain's War on Poverty
Jane Waldfogel Russell Sage Foundation, 2010 Library of Congress HV751.A6W34 2010 | Dewey Decimal 362.7
In 1999, one in four British children lived in poverty—the third highest child poverty rate among industrialized countries. Five years later, the child poverty rate in Britain had fallen by more than half in absolute terms. How did the British government accomplish this and what can the United States learn from the British experience? Jane Waldfogel offers a sharp analysis of the New Labour government's anti-poverty agenda, its dramatic early success and eventual stalled progress. Comparing Britain's anti-poverty initiative to U.S. welfare reform, the book shows how the policies of both countries have affected child poverty, living standards, and well-being in low-income families and suggests next steps for future reforms. Britain's War on Poverty evaluates the three-pronged anti-poverty strategy employed by the British government and what these efforts accomplished. British reforms sought to promote work and make work pay, to increase financial support for families with children, and to invest in the health, early-life development, and education of children. The latter two features set the British reforms apart from the work-oriented U.S. welfare reforms, which did not specifically target income or program supports for children. Plagued by premature initiatives and what some experts called an overly ambitious agenda, the British reforms fell short of their intended goal but nevertheless significantly increased single-parent employment, raised incomes for low-income families, and improved child outcomes. Poverty has fallen, and the pattern of low-income family expenditures on child enrichment and healthy food has begun to converge with higher-income families. As Waldfogel sees it, further success in reducing child poverty in Britain will rely on understanding who is poor and who is at highest risk. More than half of poor children live in families where at least one parent is working, followed by unemployed single- and two-parent homes, respectively. Poverty rates are also notably higher for children with disabled parents, large families, and for Pakistani and Bangladeshi children. Based on these demographics, Waldfogel argues that future reforms must, among other goals, raise working-family incomes, provide more work for single parents, and better engage high-risk racial and ethnic minority groups. What can the United States learn from the British example? Britain's War on Poverty is a primer in the triumphs and pitfalls of protracted policy. Notable differences distinguish the British and U.S. models, but Waldfogel asserts that a future U.S. poverty agenda must specifically address child poverty and the income inequality that helps create it. By any measurement and despite obstacles, Britain has significantly reduced child poverty. The book's key lesson is that it can be done.
Childhood in the Promised Land is the first history of France's colonies de vacances, a vast network of summer camps created for working-class children. The colonies originated as a late-nineteenth-century charitable institution, providing rural retreats intended to restore the fragile health of poor urban children. Participation grew steadily throughout the first half of the twentieth century, "trickling up" by the late 1940s to embrace middle-class youth as well.
At the heart of the study lie the municipal colonies de vacances, organized by the working-class cities of the Paris red belt. Located in remote villages or along the more inexpensive stretches of the Atlantic coast, the municipal colonies gathered their young clientele into variously structured "child villages," within which they were to live out particular, ideal visions of the collective life of children throughout the long summer holiday. Focusing on the creation of and participation in these summer camps, Laura Lee Downs presents surprising insights into the location and significance of childhood in French working-class cities and, ultimately, within the development of modern France.
Drawing on a rich array of historical sources, including dossiers and records of municipal colonies discovered in remote town halls of the Paris suburbs, newspaper accounts, and interviews with adults who participated in the colonies as children, Downs reveals how diverse groups—including local Socialist and Communist leaders and Catholic seminarians—seized the opportunity to shape the minds and bodies of working-class youth. Childhood in the Promised Land shows how, in creating the summer camps, these various groups combined pedagogical theories, religious convictions, political ideologies, and theories about the relationship between the countryside and children's physical and cognitive development. At the same time, the book sheds light on classic questions of social control, highlighting the active role of the children in shaping their experiences.
One in five American children now live in families with incomes below the povertyline, and their prospects are not bright. Low income is statistically linked with a variety of poor outcomes for children, from low birth weight and poor nutrition in infancy to increased chances of academic failure, emotional distress, and unwed childbirth in adolescence. To address these problems it is not enough to know that money makes a difference; we need to understand how. Consequences of Growing Up Poor is an extensive and illuminating examination of the paths through which economic deprivation damages children at all stages of their development. In Consequences of Growing Up Poor, developmental psychologists, economists, and sociologists revisit a large body of studies to answer specific questions about how low income puts children at risk intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Many of their investigations demonstrate that although income clearly creates disadvantages, it does so selectively and in a wide variety of ways. Low-income preschoolers exhibit poorer cognitive and verbal skills because they are generally exposed to fewer toys, books, and other stimulating experiences in the home. Poor parents also tend to rely on home-based child care, where the quality and amount of attention children receive is inferior to that of professional facilities. In later years, conflict between economically stressed parents increases anxiety and weakens self-esteem in their teenaged children. Although they share economic hardships, the home lives of poor children are not homogenous. Consequences of Growing Up Poor investigates whether such family conditions as the marital status, education, and involvement of parents mitigate the ill effects of poverty. Consequences of Growing Up Poor also looks at the importance of timing: Does being poor have a different impact on preschoolers, children, and adolescents? When are children most vulnerable to poverty? Some contributors find that poverty in the prenatal or early childhood years appears to be particularly detrimental to cognitive development and physical health. Others offer evidence that lower income has a stronger negative effect during adolescence than in childhood or adulthood. Based on their findings, the editors and contributors to Consequences of Growing Up Poor recommend more sharply focused child welfare policies targeted to specific eras and conditions of poor children's lives. They also weigh the relative need for income supplements, child care subsidies, and home interventions. Consequences of Growing Up Poor describes the extent and causes of hardships for poor children, defines the interaction between income and family, and offers solutions to improve young lives. JEANNE BROOKS-GUNN is Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also director of the Center for Young Children and Families, and co-directs the Adolescent Study Program at Teachers College.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has defined the childhoods of an entire generation. Over the past twenty years, international NGOs and charities have devoted immense attention to the millions of African children orphaned by the disease. But in Crying for Our Elders, anthropologist Kristen E. Cheney argues that these humanitarian groups have misread the ‘orphan crisis’. She explains how the global humanitarian focus on orphanhood often elides the social and political circumstances that actually present the greatest adversity to vulnerable children—in effect deepening the crisis and thereby affecting children’s lives as irrevocably as HIV/AIDS itself.
Through ethnographic fieldwork and collaborative research with children in Uganda, Cheney traces how the “best interest” principle that governs children’s’ rights can stigmatize orphans and leave children in the post-antiretroviral era even more vulnerable to exploitation. She details the dramatic effects this has on traditional family support and child protection and stresses child empowerment over pity. Crying for Our Elders advances current discussions on humanitarianism, children’s studies, orphanhood, and kinship. By exploring the unique experience of AIDS orphanhood through the eyes of children, caregivers, and policymakers, Cheney shows that despite the extreme challenges of growing up in the era of HIV/AIDS, the post-ARV generation still holds out hope for the future.
With his dirty, tattered clothes and hollowed-out face, Oliver Twist is the enduring symbol of the young indigent spilling out of orphanages and haunting the streets of late-nineteenth-century London. Although poor children were often portrayed as real-life Oliver Twists—either orphaned or abandoned by unworthy parents—they in fact frequently maintained contact and were eventually reunited with their families.
In Imagined Orphans, Lydia Murdoch focuses on this discrepancy between the representation and the reality of children’s experiences within welfare institutions—a discrepancy that she argues stems from conflicts over middle- and working-class notions of citizenship that arose in the 1870s and persisted until the First World War. Reformers’ efforts to depict poor children as either orphaned or endangered by abusive or “no-good” parents fed upon the poor’s increasing exclusion from the Victorian social body. Reformers used the public’s growing distrust and pitiless attitude toward poor adults to increase charity and state aid to the children.
With a critical eye to social issues of the period, Murdoch urges readers to reconsider the complex situations of families living in poverty. While reformers’ motivations seem well intentioned, she shows how their methods solidified the public’s antipoor sentiment and justified a minimalist welfare state that engendered a cycle of poverty. As they worked to fashion model citizens, reformers’ efforts to protect and care for children took on an increasingly imperial cast that would continue into the twentieth century.
One out of five children, and one out of two single mothers, lives in destitution in America today. The feminization and "infantilization" of poverty have made the United States one of the most dangerous democracies for poor mothers and their children to inhabit. Why then, Valerie Polakow asks, is poverty seen as a private issue, and how can public policy fail to take responsibility for the consequences of our politics of distribution? Written by a committed child advocate, Lives on the Edge draws on social, historical, feminist, and public policy perspectives to develop an informed, wide-ranging critique of American educational and social policy. Stark, penetrating, and unflinching in its first-hand portraits of single mothers in America today, this work challenges basic myths about justice and democracy.
Perhaps the most alarming phenomenon in American cities has been the transformation of many neighborhoods into isolated ghettos where poverty is the norm and violent crime, drug use, out-of-wedlock births, and soaring school dropout rates are rampant. Public concern over these destitute areas has focused on their most vulnerable inhabitants—children and adolescents. How profoundly does neighborhood poverty endanger their well-being and development? Is the influence of neighborhood more powerful than that of the family? Neighborhood Poverty: Context and Consequences for Children approaches these questions with an insightful and wide-ranging investigation into the effect of community poverty on children's physical health, cognitive and verbal abilities, educational attainment, and social adjustment. This two-volume set offers the most current research and analysis from experts in the fields of child development, social psychology, sociology and economics. Drawing from national and city-based sources, Volume I reports the empirical evidence concerning the relationship between children and community. As the essays demonstrate, poverty entails a host of problems that affects the quality of educational, recreational, and child care services. Poor neighborhoods usually share other negative features—particularly racial segregation and a preponderance of single mother families—that may adversely affect children. Yet children are not equally susceptible to the pitfalls of deprived communities. Neighborhood has different effects depending on a child's age, race, and gender, while parenting techniques and a family's degree of community involvement also serve as mitigating factors. Volume II incorporates empirical data on neighborhood poverty into discussions of policy and program development. The contributors point to promising community initiatives and suggest methods to strengthen neighborhood-based service programs for children. Several essays analyze the conceptual and methodological issues surrounding the measurement of neighborhood characteristics. These essays focus on the need to expand scientific insight into urban poverty by drawing on broader pools of ethnographic, epidemiological, and quantitative data. Volume II explores the possibilities for a richer and more well-rounded understanding of neighborhood and poverty issues. To grasp the human cost of poverty, we must clearly understand how living in distressed neighborhoods impairs children's ability to function at every level. Neighborhood Poverty explores the multiple and complex paths between community, family, and childhood development. These two volumes provide and indispensible guide for social policy and demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary social science to probe complex social issues.
Perhaps the most alarming phenomenon in American cities has been the transformation of many neighborhoods into isolated ghettos where poverty is the norm and violent crime, drug use, out-of-wedlock births, and soaring school dropout rates are rampant. Public concern over these destitute areas has focused on their most vulnerable inhabitants—children and adolescents. How profoundly does neighborhood poverty endanger their well-being and development? Is the influence of neighborhood more powerful than that of the family? Neighborhood Poverty approaches these questions with an insightful and wide-ranging investigation into the effect of community poverty on children's physical health, cognitive and verbal abilities, educational attainment, and social adjustment. This two-volume set offers the most current research and analysis from experts in the fields of child development, social psychology, sociology and economics. Drawing from national and city-based sources, Volume I reports the empirical evidence concerning the relationship between children and community. As the essays demonstrate, poverty entails a host of problems that affects the quality of educational, recreational, and child care services.Poor neighborhoods usually share other negative features—particularly racial segregation and a preponderance of single mother families—that may adversely affect children. Yet children are not equally susceptible to the pitfalls of deprived communities. Neighborhood has different effects depending on a child's age, race, and gender, while parenting techniques and a family's degree of community involvement also serve as mitigating factors. Volume II incorporates empirical data on neighborhood poverty into discussions of policy and program development. The contributors point to promising community initiatives and suggest methods to strengthen neighborhood-based service programs for children. Several essays analyze the conceptual and methodological issues surrounding the measurement of neighborhood characteristics. These essays focus on the need to expand scientific insight into urban poverty by drawing on broader pools of ethnographic, epidemiological, and quantitative data. Volume II explores the possibilities for a richer and more well-rounded understanding of neighborhood and poverty issues. To grasp the human cost of poverty, we must clearly understand how living in distressed neighborhoods impairs children's ability to function at every level. Neighborhood Poverty explores the multiple and complex paths between community, family, and childhood development. These two volumes provide and indispensable guide for social policy and demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary social science to probe complex social issues.
Drawing on national, state, and local data, the Urban Child Institute partnered with RAND to explore the social and emotional well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn. The book highlights the importance of factors in the home, child care setting, and community that contribute to social and emotional development.
In Poor Kids in a Rich Country, Lee Rainwater and Timothy Smeeding ask what it means to be poor in a prosperous nation - especially for any country's most vulnerable citizens, its children. In comparing the situation of American children in low-income families with their counterparts in fourteen other countries—including Western Europe, Australia, and Canada—they provide a powerful perspective on the dynamics of child poverty in the United States. Based on the rich data available from the transnational Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), Poor Kids in a Rich Country puts child poverty in the United States in an international context. Rainwater and Smeeding find that while the child poverty rate in most countries has been relatively stable over the past 30 years, child poverty has increased markedly in the United States and Britain—two of the world's wealthiest countries. The book delves into the underlying reasons for this difference, examining the mix of earnings and government transfers, such as child allowances, sickness and maternity benefits, unemployment insurance, and other social assistance programs that go into the income packages available to both single- and dual-parent families in each country. Rainwater and Smeeding call for policies to make it easier for working parents to earn a decent living while raising their children—policies such as parental leave, childcare support, increased income supports for working poor families, and a more socially oriented education policy. They make a convincing argument that our definition of poverty should not be based solely on the official poverty line—that is, the minimum income needed to provide a certain level of consumption—but on the social and economic resources necessary for full participation in society. Combining a wealth of empirical data on international poverty levels with a thoughtful new analysis of how best to use that data, Poor Kids in a Rich Country will provide an essential tool for researchers and policymakers who make decisions about child and family policy.
In the five years following the passage of federal welfare reform law, the labor force participation of low-income, single mothers with young children climbed by more than 25 percent. With significantly more hours spent outside the home, single working mothers face a serious childcare crunch—how can they provide quality care for their children? In Putting Children First, Ajay Chaudry follows 42 low-income families in New York City over three years to illuminate the plight of these mothers and the ways in which they respond to the difficult challenge of providing for their children's material and developmental needs with limited resources. Using the words of the women themselves, Chaudry tells a startling story. Scarce subsidies, complicated bureaucracies, inflexible work schedules, and limited choices force families to piece together care arrangements that are often unstable, unreliable, inconvenient, and of limited quality. Because their wages are so low, these women are forced to rely on inexpensive caregivers who are often under-qualified to serve the developmental needs of their children. Even when these mothers find good, affordable care, it rarely lasts long because their volatile employment situations throw their needs into constant flux. The average woman in Chaudry's sample had to find five different primary caregivers in her child's first four years, while over a quarter of them needed seven or more in that time. This book lets single, low-income mothers describe the childcare arrangements they desire and the ways that options available to them fail to meet even their most basic needs. As Chaudry tracks these women through erratic childcare spells, he reveals the strategies they employ, the tremendous costs they incur and the anxiety they face when trying to ensure that their children are given proper care. Honest, powerful, and alarming, Putting Children First gives a fresh perspective on work and family for the disadvantaged. It infuses a human voice into the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of welfare reform, showing the flaws of a social policy based solely on personal responsibility without concurrent societal responsibility, and suggesting a better path for the future.
A substantial number of American children experience poverty: about 17 percent of those under the age of eighteen meet the government’s definition, and the proportion is even greater within minority groups. Childhood poverty can have lifelong effects, resulting in poor educational, labor market, and physical and mental health outcomes for adults. These problems have long been recognized, and there are numerous programs designed to alleviate or even eliminate poverty; as these programs compete for scarce resources, it is important to develop a clear view of their impact as tools for poverty alleviation.
Targeting Investments in Children tackles the problem of evaluating these programs by examining them using a common metric: their impact on earnings in adulthood. The volume’s contributors explore a variety of issues, such as the effect of interventions targeted at children of different ages, and study a range of programs, including child care, after-school care, and drug prevention. The results will be invaluable to educational leaders and researchers as well as policy makers.
Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective
BRUCE BRADBURY is associate professor at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Australia. MILES CORAK is professor of economics at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. JANE WALDFOGFEL is professor of social work and public affairs at the Columbia University School of Social Work and visiting professor at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and Political Science. ELIZABETH WASHBROOK is lecturer in Quantitative Methods for Education at the Graduate School of Education and a member of the Centre for Multilevel Modelling at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Russell Sage Foundation, 2015 Library of Congress HQ792.U5B7243 2015 | Dewey Decimal 305.230973
The belief that with hard work and determination, all children have the opportunity to succeed in life is a cherished part of the American Dream. Yet, increased inequality in America has made that dream more difficult for many to obtain. In Too Many Children Left Behind, an international team of social scientists assesses how social mobility varies in the United States compared with Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Bruce Bradbury, Miles Corak, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washbrook show that the academic achievement gap between disadvantaged American children and their more advantaged peers is far greater than in other wealthy countries, with serious consequences for their future life outcomes. With education the key to expanding opportunities for those born into low socioeconomic status families, Too Many Children Left Behind helps us better understand educational disparities and how to reduce them.
Analyzing data on 8,000 school children in the United States, the authors demonstrate that disadvantages that begin early in life have long lasting effects on academic performance. The social inequalities that children experience before they start school contribute to a large gap in test scores between low- and high-SES students later in life. Many children from low-SES backgrounds lack critical resources, including books, high-quality child care, and other goods and services that foster the stimulating environment necessary for cognitive development. The authors find that not only is a child’s academic success deeply tied to his or her family background, but that this class-based achievement gap does not narrow as the child proceeds through school.
The authors compare test score gaps from the United States with those from three other countries and find smaller achievement gaps and greater social mobility in all three, particularly in Canada. The wider availability of public resources for disadvantaged children in those countries facilitates the early child development that is fundamental for academic success. All three countries provide stronger social services than the United States, including universal health insurance, universal preschool, paid parental leave, and other supports. The authors conclude that the United States could narrow its achievement gap by adopting public policies that expand support for children in the form of tax credits, parenting programs, and pre-K.
With economic inequalities limiting the futures of millions of children, Too Many Children Left Behind is a timely study that uses global evidence to show how the United States can do more to level the playing field.
As the incomes of affluent and poor families have diverged over the past three decades, so too has the educational performance of their children. But how exactly do the forces of rising inequality affect the educational attainment and life chances of low-income children? In Whither Opportunity? a distinguished team of economists, sociologists, and experts in social and education policy examines the corrosive effects of unequal family resources, disadvantaged neighborhoods, insecure labor markets, and worsening school conditions on K-12 education. This groundbreaking book illuminates the ways rising inequality is undermining one of the most important goals of public education—the ability of schools to provide children with an equal chance at academic and economic success. The most ambitious study of educational inequality to date, Whither Opportunity? analyzes how social and economic conditions surrounding schools affect school performance and children’s educational achievement. The book shows that from earliest childhood, parental investments in children’s learning affect reading, math, and other attainments later in life. Contributor Meredith Phillip finds that between birth and age six, wealthier children will have spent as many as 1,300 more hours than poor children on child enrichment activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camp. Greg Duncan, George Farkas, and Katherine Magnuson demonstrate that a child from a poor family is two to four times as likely as a child from an affluent family to have classmates with low skills and behavior problems – attributes which have a negative effect on the learning of their fellow students. As a result of such disparities, contributor Sean Reardon finds that the gap between rich and poor children’s math and reading achievement scores is now much larger than it was fifty years ago. And such income-based gaps persist across the school years, as Martha Bailey and Sue Dynarski document in their chapter on the growing income-based gap in college completion. Whither Opportunity? also reveals the profound impact of environmental factors on children’s educational progress and schools’ functioning. Elizabeth Ananat, Anna Gassman-Pines, and Christina Gibson-Davis show that local job losses such as those caused by plant closings can lower the test scores of students with low socioeconomic status, even students whose parents have not lost their jobs. They find that community-wide stress is most likely the culprit. Analyzing the math achievement of elementary school children, Stephen Raudenbush, Marshall Jean, and Emily Art find that students learn less if they attend schools with high student turnover during the school year – a common occurrence in poor schools. And David Kirk and Robert Sampson show that teacher commitment, parental involvement, and student achievement in schools in high-crime neighborhoods all tend to be low. For generations of Americans, public education provided the springboard to upward mobility. This pioneering volume casts a stark light on the ways rising inequality may now be compromising schools’ functioning, and with it the promise of equal opportunity in America.