Social Policy Blog Post 4: “Who’s poor?”

Discuss at least 2 ways poverty and unemployment are measured as well as how these measures affect pictures of poverty or unemployment.  [For example, would the poverty threshold or poverty guidelines measure higher?  How might this affect legislation regarding poverty.]

*Clarification – for 2 ways to measure unemployment, how does the federal government measure unemployment?  Who might this leave out that it should include?

Let’s start this off by saying I am poor. I Uber for income and sometimes make money singing, but I do not have a steady job. I am a student. I have ungodly amounts of debt. I am poor.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what the government thinks.

According to the text, the two ways of measuring poverty are poverty threshold and poverty guideline. The poverty threshold is more commonly known as the poverty line. Threshold tends to be higher than guideline. Threshold is used strictly for statistical purposes, while guideline is used to determine whether or not someone is eligible for federal programs like TANF and SNAP.

In my personal experience, neither one of these things takes into account debt-to-income ratio. I was divorced and co-parenting my son with minimal child support and no alimony. I was working full time and making money at a rate above the poverty line, so I didn’t qualify for any federal aid. If I’d dropped a day at work, I would have qualified! These levels of poverty exclude the working poor. Those who are trying to pay off debt, working full time, and make too much money to qualify for the things they need.

Unemployment is measureable. Anyone who doesn’t have a job is unemployed. Underemployment is not as measurable. It can mean those who are working below their skill set or education level. It can also mean those who want to work more hours than they are working.

Regarding employment, in the US a loss of a job might trigger short-term poverty. Then there is the idea of structural unemployment. Structural unemployment occurs when there are changes in the way things are done, like technological advancements in certain labor and factory jobs. These advancements create unemployment for some because the workers’ skill sets are limited.

I’ve been underemployed almost my entire working life. I’ve been college educated since 2001 and obtained my first masters degree in 2006. I’ve worked entry-level positions in non-profits. I tried to get promoted but didn’t have the “right” education. (I have a master of music.) This was during those years when I was struggling as a single parent. I understand that feeling of not being able to get ahead or even catch up because it feels like the system is set up to defeat you.


Generalist Practice 2 Blog Post 4: Community Studies

Referencing the Hardcastle article, please explain the 4 types of community studies (field work study, community power structure study, community analysis study, and problems and services study), using 2-3 sentences to describe each one.

I’m going to try to tie each one of these studies to the city of Norman in some way.

Field Work Study: This is a holistic-type study that works over time, is informal, and works through interviews and observations of a particular community. Ideally, a researcher would be able to get the working history of a community through these observations and interviews. There is also face-to-face work with members of the community called “informants.” Someone coming into Norman to do one of these studies would be in contact with families who have been here, say, 40 years or longer, founders of local businesses (Republic Bank, for instance), leaders of churches like McFarland, and members of the Norman Public School board. Their collective stories would give an overview of life in Norman.

Community Power Structure Study: This type of study uses interviews, surveys, and library investigation studies to determine who has the power and exerts influence in a community. They are by definition designed to determine where the power structure lies in a community. A list of names of who in a community has power usually arises out of this type of study. In Norman, I believe the power structure would indicate strong leadership coming from the mayor, the city council, local business owners and operators, pastors of large churches, and leadership from the University (like David Boren).

Community Analysis Study: This type of study seems to be highly quantitative. This involves analysis based on who the leaders are in a community and where they see the community heading in the future. There is an analysis of factual documents that help researchers and community leaders support and respond to the needs of a the community in a certain way. In Norman, this would involve a look at historical documents, budget documents provided by the city council and the NPS board, as well as other pertinent quantitative information.

Problems and Services Study: This type of study looks into the specific problems in a community and what services are available in that community that can address the problem. Doing these types of studies helps show researchers and community leaders where the big needs are in a community and would help inform a search for services to meet those needs. If something needs to be brought in to meet a need, this is where they would start. Norman’s east side could be studied regarding problems and services. My practicum is at Kennedy, and a problems and services study might show that there are a lot of families at or below the poverty line. Fortunately, most of the social service outlets in Norman are on the east side and are more easily accessible to those with limited transportation and resources.