Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Although I have a slight suspicion that you were partly thinking of my diary on wealth and poverty in Poland I actually mostly agree with you. There is a poverty trap in the US and it is extremely difficult to get out of and that it is as you say, a lack of 'jobs, education, skills, and opportunity.' Stats showing that plenty of poor people do move up are flawed because they are actually describing students who are poor at least in terms of formal income (i.e. not counting parental help and loans) but who quickly do well once they get out. At any given point they are a small portion of the low income group, but as they are a constantly replenished set, cumulatively they make up a large portion of those who at one point or another were in the bottom quintile. A more telling picture of class mobility compares where people end up relative to their parents, and there the picture is quite static. But in my opinion the most telling statistic about the bankruptcy of the American economic model is that median wages have stayed flat since the early seventies in spite of very substantial real per-capita growth. All that extra wealth has gone to the top fifth of society with a strong tilt to the top one percent.

The only parts where I disagree with you is about the poor not appearing in the stats - they do, and that relative to much poorer countries all classes of Americans are generally better off.

by MarekNYC on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 03:55:30 AM EST
Yes, the swipe at the statistics is unjustified: the stats are collected and published, just never reported or commented on.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 04:06:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know just how bad Izzy has been living, but people at the lowest low - homeless people, jobless illegal immigrants etc - do in fact often fall out of the statistics: usual tracking methods may not reach them.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 07:11:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't have the time to go into all that here, but I do a lovely rendition of Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen on the harmonica. ;-)

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 03:28:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I admit the swipe at the statistics can only be justified by personal observation.  Perhaps there are statistics that cover these things, but I'm unaware of them.  I'm talking about, as DoDo mentions, the people who fall through the cracks.

And also a general distrust of our methods because of verifiable statistical skulduggery we engage in.  For example, we've been mucking about with High School dropout statistics for years.  The scam is you have kids dropping out and not obtaining the General Equivalency Diploma (GED), but you don't count them as dropouts if, say, they're moving and "may" enrol in another school or if they say they "might" take the GED at some point.  

These kids are never followed up on and never reported in the statistics.  This was a bad problem in some states for many years because the funding relied on achieving certain goals.  The trend went national with NCLB.  Of course, that program had started in Texas when W. was Governor, so they were the first to have a school-district claim to have a zero dropout rate.  I'll try to find the story which explains the whole thing in detail if you'd like, but these sorts of things with statistics go on all the time.

We also have a million ways that people are "unqualified" for any of the safety net programs.  Now, if you're poor and can't get into any of the programs or receive any of the benefits, how are you counted in the statistics?  The only program I'm aware of that attempts to count one of these segments is the projects which simply sends people out in as many cities and areas they can get volunteers for, and counts how many homeless they find on one night a year.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 03:05:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as promised, about the "zero dropout rate" incident.  It's quite a good read.  I don't know anything about this site I'm linking to, but they've reprinted the original NY Times article with permission.

Houston's Zero Dropout

Robert Kimball, an assistant principal at Sharpstown High School, sat smack in the middle of the "Texas miracle." His poor, mostly minority high school of 1,650 students had a freshman class of 1,000 that dwindled to fewer than 300 students by senior year. And yet -- and this is the miracle -- not one dropout to report!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 09:22:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shirah at Unbossed did a good post on changes in data collection in the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Better That You Not Know

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics is probably not on your regular internet browsing schedule. Though it is worth a look now and then for the comprehensive data it collects and makes available free of charge to anyone. You can even construct your own charts.

But the BLS has decided that there are things it is better that we not know. It has announced plans to stop collecting some data and start collecting other data


Here are the planned changes, all of which the BLS says are improvements.

BLS pans to discontinue collecting data on:

  1. what women workers are paid, because, it says, there is little interest in this issue.

  2. what hours "Production or nonsupervisory worker" work and what they are paid.

Here is an example of a ccurrent BLS report on women's and men's wages.

BLS also says it needs to stop collecting this data so it has the money to collect other data. Here are the new data it intends to collect:

  1. New data on the hours and regular earnings of all employees. All means that the data will include data from the most highly paid CEOs.

  2. New data on total earnings - both regular and irregular pay - for all employees.

If you look at this report, you will see why this is a problem. The report focuses on average earnings and uses them to assess how the economy is doing:"

There are links to everything in the original.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 03:10:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That would be the Bush administration undermining the science again.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 04:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.  Actually, shirah has another one about privatizing key positions in the EPA.  In one move it manages to skew statistics, undermine science, and funnel taxpayer money to cronies -- the Bush trifecta!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 04:43:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A little graphic

In constant $, the bottom 60% of the households in the US have experienced very little income growth over the past 30 years.  The top is doing quite well.

Since 1980 its gotten much worse.

by btower on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 01:12:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series