Archive for Wealth & Income Shares

Measuring the wealth and income gap, step by step

Measuring the gap between the richest and poorest in your community is surprisingly easy, thanks to the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder.

Find the answers to these questions to see how this issue looks in your community:

+How does your community compare to the state and nation in its overall inequality of income?

+What percentage of the total income was earned by the top 20 percent? The top 5 percent?

+What percentage of your community is under the official poverty line? What percentage have incomes of more than $100,000?

For all three of the statistical measures described here, start from the American Fact Finder section of the US Census Bureau website: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

From the home page, click on Advanced Search and then “Show Me All.”

In Advanced Search, you can search by a topic, Read more

Georgia income shares

This interactive graphic, produced for NearMedia by Chris Sullivan, lets you see the income share quintiles by county in Georgia.

 

A new “Inequality” book from OECD

The OECD has made available its book, “Income Inequality,” to read for free online or download as a pdf or epub

Health clinic bridges income divide

No one’s turned away in Greene County

By Kathleen Raven

Eight-year-old Lisa Brown sat with her grandmother in a doctor’s office near Union Point, Ga. Brown’s grandmother, who could not afford health insurance, leaned forward in her chair, eager to hear the doctor’s plan for treating her crippling back pain.

But the doctor just shrugged.

“If you cannot afford to buy a new bed mattress or medicine, then I cannot help you,” Brown remembers the doctor saying. Brown’s grandmother dropped her head and stared at her feet.

Though it happened three decades ago, Brown has never forgotten that moment–what she calls her “first memory of health care”–when her strong, powerful grandmother, who logged 10-hour days at the local sewing factory, was reduced to shame and embarrassment.

Before her grandmother died in 2005, Brown started and led a community health clinic in Greene County with this mantra at its core: No patient gets turned away. Offering basic care, minor surgery, obstetrics and dental care to anyone who walks through the doors, TenderCare is a rare entity – one that bridges the growing disparity between rich and poor. Seen as a model, it has succeeded so well that it’s expanding.

Read more

Mending the gap: How to localize the national problem

Photo by Lisa Schnellinger

When you look at the Data Profile for your community, what jumps out at you? What parts of it connect with what you see on local streets every day? How does this community profile jibe with the way political leaders describe the community?

Whether it’s the number of people without health insurance, the education levels, or differences in types of housing, a description of your community will suggest where the obvious disparities are between rich and poor. From there, you can look at the Gini Index and income-shares statistics through the lens of daily life for people on either side of the wealth and income gap. And you can bring those examples to political candidates, and ask how they view the gap – as a problem, or as an opportunity?

Here are the steps you might follow to develop those statistics into stories:

Step 1.

Gather the numbers. Choose a socioeconomic characteristic related to your beat or a timely interest, or review the Data Profile to look for the biggest gaps in your community. Compare those with state and national statistics.

Find the numbers for the Gini Index and the income shares in your community. How do these relate to the characteristic? For example, how does the percentage of uninsured compare to the percentage of people in the lowest quintile?

Step 2.

Look for a way to illustrate the gap in daily life. Often this might be in comparing services offered in private facilities to services available through government or nonprofit agencies.

For example – if you’re interested in health care, compare a public hospital or a nonprofit hospital that does indigent care with a private hospital. What is the difference in the level of care?

Or compare what is available for home weatherization

Read more

Community Health Status Indicators

Wealth distribution and health determinants are inextricably linked. Few online databases offer clear, concise information on the intersection of those subjects.

Further, an oft-repeated gripe of public health researchers and reporters in local communities is the lag time between when health information is gathered and shared.

The Community Health Status Indicators produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services date from 2009. If your story demands the very latest information, then this site will provide the necessary background information and historical perspective. Otherwise, it is possible to use the rich database of information as a foundation of health reporting in your community.

Check it out: http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/HomePage.aspx

Mind the Gap: Income disparity in Greene County and Beyond

For my story topic on wealth and income shares, I plan to focus on the amalgam that is Greene County, Georgia. Greene County is home to the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro. The former president George W. Bush visited the lodge in 2003, but not much is said about the former president visiting those on the other side of the wealth divide in a local news article covering the event. Fifty years ago last month marked the anniversary of Michael Harrington’s book, The Other America: Poverty in the United States, which apparently spurred John F. Kennedy and his advisors to action to combat the problem.

According to census data released in September 2011, America’s national poverty rate rose one full percentage point to 15 percent in 2010, or about 46 million people. The U.S. government defines the poverty line at an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four.

Nowhere in Georgia is the gap of wealth more apparent than in Greene County, according to a measurement system called the Gini Index. News in Numbers has a post dedicated to exploring this data. Greene County proved to be the county with the most disparity in income shares according to data collected during a five-year period.

Due to my interest in healthcare and health policy, I plan to use not only income measures, but also the number of those living without insurance in Greene County to portray what such a large gap in income means for America.

My story proposes to answer the following questions: Read more

Test your inequality IQ

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality

Think you know something about inequality in America? Test yourself by taking a stroll through the Stanford Center.

If you’re still learning the vocabulary, try the click-dictionary: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/dictionary.html

There are graphic-based fact flashcards at http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/cgi-bin/facts.php (shown above) where you can hone in on the areas you’re interested in.

And finally, there is a quiz with increasing levels of difficulty.

You’ll learn even if you’re wrong. When you see your corrected answers, you’ll find a host of interesting facts and myth-busting stats.

You can start the quiz here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/cgi-bin/ezquiz_test.php

If you don’t get very far in the quiz, well, you can always go back to your reading. The center publishes a magazine that you can download here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/media_magazines.html

 

How to measure the gap in your area

 

Photo by Al Clayton

Measuring the gap between the richest and poorest in your community is surprisingly easy, thanks to the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder.

Find the answers to these questions to see how this issue looks in your community:

+How does your community compare to the state and nation in its overall inequality of income?

+What percentage of the total income was earned by the top 20 percent? The top 5 percent?

+What percentage of your community is under the official poverty line? What percentage have incomes of more than $100,000?

For all three of the statistical measures described here, start from the American Fact Finder section of the US Census Bureau website: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

You don’t need to wait for a census once in a decade to get good, local data. All of the measures are based on the American Community Survey, or ACS. This is detailed information collected from a national survey every year, since 2006. Read more

Why cover wealth and income shares?

By many measures, the gap between rich and poor is increasing, and has been for at least two decades.

This affects your audience in many ways. Here are five reasons you should cover the issue of wealth and income distribution:

  1. The gap has created political turmoil and social tensions that affect a broad swath of citizens in their jobs and community life. They’re interested in the causes and possible solutions.
  2. The gap is at the center of a long-running political debate that has deeply divided the country, and your audience needs neutral information to make choices in elections.
  3. The size of this gap is so large that it has demotivated and alienated entire populations from participating in the political system. Engaging all groups in the public debate is an important role of journalism.
  4. At the other end of the spectrum, greater wealth correlates to greater political power. Reporting is essential to bring to light how power and influence has concentrated in fewer hands – and how that affects the poor.
  5. Economic mobility has been cited for generations as a reason that migrants are attracted to America and as inspiration for hard work by lower- and middle-class Americans. As that mobility declines, it impacts the poor in myriad ways that deserve coverage.