Why is the poverty level dropping when the gap between how much it costs to live and how much families earn is actually growing? Workers across the United States are experiencing income insufficiency—the phenomena of working for a wage that doesn’t pay enough to cover basic needs but earning too much to be eligible for social support programs. They work in some of our most crucial jobs – keeping us safe as security guards, caring for loved ones as Home Aids, helping us with our bags at the grocery store – but their struggles have been rendered invisible by the Federal Poverty Measure.

A new measure from the United Way ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) project shines some much-needed light on the problem, finding that a whopping 43% of American households aren’t making it in today’s economy, triple the federal poverty rate.  These households are in every U.S. county and include every gender, race, ethnicity, and age.  Join us as we talk with ALICE Project Director Dr. Stephanie Hoopes and staunch ALICE advocate Karen Perham-Lippman, Deputy Commissioner in Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection, to help us learn about how families are getting by, and what we can do about it.

Giving money to every American – no strings attached – sounds like a parody of liberal governance.  But the policy, once proposed by Richard Nixon and suggested by colonial pamphleteer Thomas Paine, is gaining traction among a unique coalition of thought leaders, Silicon Valley executives, and politicians from across the ideological spectrum.  This concept, known as the Universal Basic Income or UBI, is seen as a possible answer to a range of pressing policy conundrums: financial instability, a coming wave of unemployment driven by automation, and climate change spurred by greenhouse gas emissions.

Many have raised concerns about the potential consequences, particularly whether this could cause an exodus from the labor market while simultaneously bankrupting the government.  Luckily, the UBI is not new, and we have decades of data to guide our understanding of what to expect from a large-scale UBI.  Here in the United States two large programs have been operating for decades: Alaska’s Permanent Fund, funded by fees paid by oil and mining companies, has paid a dividend to every Alaskan since the early 1980s, and the Eastern Band of Cherokees have paid tribe members a share of profits from its casino since the 1990s.

On this episode of Bending the Arc, we speak with Hawaii Representative Chris Lee, who sponsored a resolution to explore the UBI in his home state, to understand the grassroots support and enthusiasm, and Dr. Ioana Marinescu, Assistant Professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice and a recognized expert on the topic, to learn what history tells us and how the UBI can be an effective policy tool.

“Technology is best when it brings people together,” Matt Mullenweg, a founder of WordPress, wrote several years ago. As the reach of mobile devices continues to grow, non-profit organizations have recognized the utility of tech as useful tool in the pursuit of social justice.

In this episode, we take a closer look at how technology – with a particular eye toward mobile devices – is being used for social good through a case study of Youth Matters Philly, an online resource bank designed to address youth homelessness by forging connections between young people and social services in Philadelphia. We speak with two women instrumental in its creation – Marcía Hopkins of the Juvenile Law Center and Dr. Johanna Greeson – in order to learn how professional expertise, youth-centered design, and interagency collaboration led to a unique solution to an entrenched problem.

Women who experience abuse are five times more likely to be killed if their partner has access to a gun. However, a gun never needs to be fired to entrap and terrorize a victim of intimate partner violence. On this episode we look at the relationship between firearms, domestic violence, and coercive control—a form of relationship abuse in which a woman is threatened, surveilled, and degraded by her male intimate partner. We speak to Dr. Susan Sorenson about her research on non-fatal gun use, coercive control, and how policy change can help keep guns out of the hands of abusers. Listen to learn more about how guns impact women’s lives, not just their deaths.

Domestic sex trafficking is a largely ignored topic in the United States. Usually portrayed  in Hollywood or the news, it is difficult to imagine that this horrifying issue happens in our own backyard. In order to understand this issue, we need to distinguish the differences between myths and realities about sex trafficking.

In this episode, we delve deeper into the topic by examining the intersection between sex trafficking and the child welfare system. Many runaway and youth experiencing homelessness are vulnerable to this horrific issue. We explore this topic with experts and advocates from Covenant House and The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research at Penn who explain the startling stats and life experiences of sex trafficking victims, along with what we, as a country, are doing to fix it.

Resources for Sex Trafficking

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888

Covenant House

Polaris Project

Urban Light

At the March for Our Lives, 17-year-old South Los Angeles native Edna Chavez shared her experience of growing up surrounded by violence. “I learned how to duck from bullets before I learned how to read!” she told the crowd of protestors. While FBI crime statistics for 2016 suggest violent crime is on the rise, a closer read reveals that the type of endemic violence that Edna spoke of is both hyper-localized and long-lasting, suggesting that current policy is missing the mark.

To broaden our thinking and help us understand what we’re missing, we turn to Dr. Kalen Flynn, a triple alumnus of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice and a new Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She applies her groundbreaking research on violence to old human development models, allowing us to see how words, biases, and punitive and discriminatory policy and funding models are, themselves, types of violence we too often ignore.

More than 1.5 million men, women, and children are homeless every year.  They move into shelter at their most vulnerable moments, but are sometimes met by new neighbors who fear that with them comes violence, drug use, worse schools, and lower property values.  We dig into the research to see if this holds true (spoiler alert, it doesn’t) and we’ll hear from three people with unique perspectives on homeless shelters to hear how homeless families impact a community, and how the community impacts them.

Learn more about Homelessness

SP2 Experts
Other Resources to Learn More & Find Ways to Get Involved

SP2 News

Faculty & Research, Global Engagement

International Experts Assemble to Examine, Investigate Public Health and Epidemics

On May 13 and 14, Jennifer Prah Ruger, PhD, and other international scholars and public health experts will assemble in...

Students from the MSSP 797 course in Havana, with instructor Azahara Palomeque

Student Life, Global Engagement

Social Issues Through a Global Lens: SP2 Students Reflect on Their Immersion Experience in Cuba

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National Survey Examines Emergency Department Management of Deliberate Self-Harm

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SP2 Student Emily Berkowitz presents at the APPAM Student Conference

Student Life

Students Present Policy Research on Housing, Immigration, Harassment

Four students from the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) shared their research across a wide range of...

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