Friday, September 27, 2013

Retirement Income Scenarios Blog

For some years I have been focusing most of my research on issues associated with the provision of income to individuals during their retirement years. I now have expanded this work to include the provision of programs that anyone can use, requiring only a browser that supports Adobe Flash software. To keep everything associated with this research in one place I have created a new blog at:


Please take a look. If you find it interesting, I'd be delighted if you would sign up for notifications by email when I add new posts, which I hope to do quite frequently.



Monday, September 23, 2013

The Power of Personal Voice: Storytelling, Strategy Selection and Policy Influence

In today’s policy environment, using local data to bolster arguments is a key way that advocates can influence change. Neighborhood residents and providers alike have access to micro-level data that can be used to assess the impact and effectiveness of public policies and document unmet needs. In this case, “micro-level” data relates not only to facts and figures generated by local information systems but also to resident engagement efforts that can help to uncover “the story behind the data.”

In the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP), grantees are working to establish quantitative indicators and gather baseline data that will help them track progress toward their intended results. In concert with these efforts, grantees are also prompted to generate and examine more qualitative information, focusing on questions such as:
  • What do residents know about the root causes of the issues they want to address? 
  • Are certain streets or parts of the neighborhood more challenged than others? 
  • Are there policies or regulations that either assist or challenge change agents in their efforts?
Tools that the BNCP neighborhoods are using to uncover the story behind the data include everything from neighborhood surveys to group visioning exercises. Once these stories have been harvested, they become part of the evidence base that will guide strategy selection.

Stories can serve manifold purposes, and in addition to informing direct action in communities, they can also lift up the voices of individuals and stakeholder groups. With digital tools, these stories can have an impact beyond the borders of an immediate community to influence decision-makers at the local, state and national levels.

For instance, Half in Ten and the Coalition on Human Needs recently launched Our American Story: A Storyteller Action Network, where participants are invited to submit stories about the impact of public services and investments on their access to economic opportunity. In Recipes for Rising Neighborhoods, the United Neighborhood Centers of America and the Alliance for Children and Families include additional tools for collecting stories at the neighborhood level.

The interaction between resident engagement, data analysis, communications and policy influence illustrates the interdependence of the different capacities that are essential to neighborhood revitalization. For more information about capacity building, including stories about the BNCP neighborhoods, we invite you to visit the Building Neighborhood Capacity Resource Center.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lock in $3.95 Stock Commissions

OptionsHouse just sent me an Email saying that they are raising their commissions for stock trades from $3.95 to $4.75 after October 1, 2013. However, existing customers and people who open a new account by 10/1/13 will still receive the old commission rate of $3.95 indefinitely. Unless you have a special deal with a broker, stock commissions don't get any better than at

So, if you are interested in locking this $3.95 rate, I would advise opening up an OptionsHouse account now before the price increase takes effect. You can also take advantage of their FREE Google Nexus Tablet or Free Kindle Fire HD offer.

As a favor, if you are not planning to take advantage of one of the OptionsHouse special offers, but still want to open an account, I would ask that you Email me (at the Email address in the sidebar). I have an OptionsHouse account, and they offer a commission to customers who refer new customers. Thanks!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Center for the Study of Social Policy: Look at the 2012 American Community Survey Data & Three Cities

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Community Population Survey, in 2012 46.5 million people lived in poverty – 16.1 million of them children. The report showed that Black and Hispanic families continue to have disproportionally higher poverty rates and lower incomes than White families.

While the national data provide a sense of the magnitude of poverty and disparities in the U.S., it is often difficult to imagine what that means for communities. However, the subsequent American Community Survey (ACS) data - which was released today - provides a more detailed look at demographic characteristics in cities and states.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy believes that place matters and strongly impacts the health, safety, educational and employment opportunities of children and families. We work in a number of communities that face significant challenges due to years of disinvestment, including unemployment, failing schools and housing instability. These communities are trying to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing these issues. The ACS data highlight some of the significant obstacles in place.
  • California is one of only three states that has seen an increase in poverty since 2011. In 2012 Fresno, CA – a recipient of Promise Neighborhoods planning grant and a Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP) grant – faced a poverty rate of 31.5 percent, up from 28.8 percent in 2011. In Fresno, nearly half of all Black residents (47.1 percent), 30.1 percent of Asian residents and 38.1 percent of individuals identifying as Hispanic lived in poverty. 
  • Though median incomes in the state of Wisconsin remain unchanged in 2012, residents of Milwaukee, WI – a BNCP grant recipient – continue to experience an unacceptable level of disparity. More than 42 percent of Milwaukee’s children lived in poverty, including 55.2 percent of Black children. An immense gap remained across income levels as the median household income for Black families was $24,994, compared to $45,268 for White families.
  • Tennessee’s poverty level in 2012 was not statistically different from the 2011 rate. In Memphis, TN – also a BNCP grant recipient – 28.3 percent of residents lived in poverty including more than a third (33.6 percent) of Black residents and 14.7 percent of White residents. In Memphis 27.1 percent of households relied on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits at some point in 2012. 

The data released today provide a snapshot across several indicators and capture information that can be used to make informed public policy and funding decisions – critically important in the midst of sequester cuts. State and local poverty rates can only be significantly and sustainably reduced if opportunity gaps are addressed. A growing number of communities are learning how to help policymakers better understand what is actually happening in their neighborhoods and the kinds of resources required to address local needs.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 Byrne Criminal Justice Grantees Announced

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced the 2013 Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) grantees. With more than $12 million in awards, the 14 grantees will utilize BCJI funding to tackle neighborhood crime by using data to identify the local drivers of crime and develop evidence-informed strategies that address the needs of the local community. The 14 grantees include:

  • City of Corning, CA
  • San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, CA
  • Youth Policy Institute (Los Angeles), CA
  • Georgia Department of Public Health (Atlanta), GA
  • City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, LA
  • City of Springfield, MA
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, MO
  • Fund for the City of New York (Syracuse), NY
  • City of Cleveland, OH
  • Martha O’Bryan Center, Inc. (Nashville), TN
  • ECHO Housing Corporation (Evansville), IN
  • City of Erie, PA
  • Housing Authority of the City of Tampa, FL
  • Olneyville Housing Corporation (Providence), RI

Recognizing that public safety is a challenge that requires the expertise and collaboration of several partners, BCJI awards are made to a cross-sector partnership in each city, rather than a single entity. By engaging local governments, nonprofit organizations, criminal and juvenile justice organizations and neighborhoods residents, BCJI will bring together stakeholders from various sectors that, together, can share resources and develop comprehensive, interconnected solutions to the complex issue of crime and safety.

As mentioned in the announcement, BCJI is part of the Obama Administration’s Promise Zones Initiative, a part of federal government's commitment to invest in and partner with high-poverty urban, rural, and tribal communities to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, and reduce violent crime.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2012 Poverty Data: New Data from the U.S. Census on Poverty, Income and Health Insurance Coverage

Earlier today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2012 data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. For the second consecutive year, neither the official poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty at the national level were statistically different from the previous year’s estimates—the poverty rate remained at 15 percent – amounting to 46.5 million people living in poverty. While there was not an increase in the poverty rate, the 2012 data still indicated significant racial disparities in both poverty and income. The poverty rates among non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were 9.7 percent and 11.7 percent respectively, while the poverty rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 27.2 percent and 25.6 percent respectively.

Poverty and Income Data Highlights
  • The percent of people in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of the poverty threshold, remained at 6.6 percent from 2011, which is still a substantial increase from the 5.2 percent rate seen in 2006 and 2007 (prior to the recession) and even from the data collected in 1967 where deep poverty was at 4.4 percent.
  • The poverty rates for children, those under the age of 18, was 21.8 percent, not statistically different from 2011.
  • Median household income in 2012 was $51,017, not statistically different from the 2011 median income of $51,100.
Health Insurance Coverage Data Highlights
  • The percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased to 15.4 percent from 15.7 percent between 2011 and 2012, while the number of uninsured people in 2012 was not statistically different from 2011, at 48 million people.
  • The percentage and number of people covered by government health insurance increased to 32.6 percent and 101.5 million people in 2012 up slightly from 32.2 percent and 99.5 million people in 2011.
  • The percentage of Asians and Hispanics without health insurance decreased from 16.8 percent and 30.1 percent to 15.1 percent and 29.1 percent respectively.
  • The percentage of uninsured children decreased from 9.4 percent to 8.9 percent in 2012.
Safety Net Programs
  • Unemployment insurance was able to raise 1.7 million people out of poverty in 2012.
  • Social Security income helped 15.3 million people aged 65 and older out of poverty in 2012 – if these payments were excluded - it would quadruple the number of elderly people living in poverty.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while not included in the poverty calculations used for the data today, if considered, would have reduced the number of people in poverty by 4 million people in 2012.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) also reduced the number of children classified as living in poverty in 2012 by 2.9 million children.
The Important Role of Public Policy. Public policy helps create pipelines of educational opportunity and new jobs. It also creates the supports and services that help poor individuals and families while they work toward those opportunities. As evident in the data, the most noticeable statistic changes that occurred in 2012 were in health insurance coverage – with the number of uninsured children dropping from 9.4 percent to 8.9 percent in 2012. This demonstrates the critical value of policies that make a public investment in children and families. Public investments have proven to have a real impact on reducing poverty – and subsequently improving the quality of life for millions of children and families. Unfortunately, the $85 billion in cuts to supports and services as a result of sequestration are likely to only exacerbate the conditions of poverty and increase the percentage of those living in unacceptable conditions – unable to meet their basic needs.

The Need for a Focus on Equity. The racial disparities in the poverty data indicate that Black and Hispanic families have continued to have disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower incomes compared to White families, which has been consistent for more than three decades. This inequity shows the need for innovative solutions and public investments aimed at supporting real change. Policy strategies should take into account the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes—attention to equity creates solutions that best meet the needs of the entire community.

To read CSSP's Statement on the New Poverty Data and Implications for Children and Families please click here.

For more strategies to Ensure Children Grow Up in Safe, Supportive and Economically Successful Families visit

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces 2013 TIGER Grants

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the most recent set of awards for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2013 discretionary grant program. Fifty-two projects spanning 37 states were selected to receive an estimated total of $474 million through a competitive process. Twenty-five projects, representing a combined investment of $123.4 million, are in rural areas.

The TIGER program provides federal funding for large, multi-modal transportation projects. It seeks to use federal funds to leverage investments from both the public and private sectors, including metropolitan planning organizations and transit agencies. The program received nearly 600 applications from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. This latest round of awards will support $1.8 billion in overall project spending.

TIGER grants have the potential to spur job creation and economic development while providing communities with access to transportation opportunities. For example, the Atlanta Beltline Corridor is a 33-mile system of trails, transit, and parks surrounding downtown Atlanta that connects more than 45 communities throughout the city and region. $18 million in TIGER funding will support this project by helping to build two miles of the trail and will provide residents in primarily low-income and minority communities with easier access to other modes of transportation, such as bus routes and railroads, as well as important institutions, including schools and parks.

For more information about the latest round of TIGER grants, including a link to the entire list of funded projects, please visit the DOT's website here.

Guide to Identifying Feeder Schools to Increase Graduation Rates

America's Promise Alliance recently announced the release of a guide to understanding school feeder patterns released by three of its partners: United Way Worldwide, Civic Enterprises, and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. Entitled "Solving the High School Graduation Crisis: Identifying and Using School Feeder Patterns in Your Community," the guide seeks to provide local United Ways and their communities with a process for identifying local feeder patterns to support efforts to improve academic achievement.

While much recent attention has been paid to the country's high schools with the largest proportion of students who are failing academically or dropping out of school, the authors note that it is important to identify and support the students most in need of support before they even reach high school. To assist in those efforts, they developed this guide to help communities understand which elementary and middle schools "feed," or send, students to their lowest performing schools.

The authors suggest working with community members to first identify the lowest performing high schools in the community and then identifying the middle and elementary schools that send students to those schools. They recommend starting with the lowest performing high schools, rather than trying to create a map for every high school, because this will make the process more manageable and also help your community to identify and provide support to the students at greatest risk of poor academic performance or dropping out of school altogether.

The guide provides assistance in:
  • Understanding your education landscape - This includes identifying the people and organizations that work in or with the school system. These stakeholders can include school principals and the superintendents. The guide also provides a list of data sources that your community can use to obtain key information about the education landscape in your community.
  • Identifying Feeder School Patterns in Your Community - In addition to providing tips and examples, this section offers a short checklist that your local United Way and community can use to determine your readiness to identify local school feeder patterns.
  • Using Feeder Patterns for Greater Impact - After your community has identified your local feeder patterns, you can use this part of the guide to help start thinking about how to use the data you've gained to impact student achievement. One option is to focus on what Diplomas Now, a collaboration of organizations that has developed an early warning system, calls the ABC's: Attendance, Behavior, and Course Passing and grades. This data can be used to develop a tiered approach to intervention at the school level that includes a mix of school-wide efforts and more targeted support, such as case management, for the students who are most in need. This section includes an example of how a local United Way in Phoenix piloted an early warning system.
  • Implications for Public Policy - The guide concludes with some examples of the types of state and local policies that might be able to support your community's work to improve academic achievement.
For more information on this guide, including access to an archived webinar featuring Robert Balfanz of the Everyone Graduates Center, please visit here.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Announces New Family Engagement Initiative

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has announced a $5 million investment aimed at identifying and cultivating innovations in the growing field of family engagement that support children’s educational success from birth to 8 years old. Through the initiative, the foundation strives to support and expand on-the-ground family engagement efforts that include program design and implementation, service delivery, and/or policy development and implementation.

Applications are currently being accepted from public entities or nonprofit organizations that have developed effective family engagement models that address obstacles faced by low-income families. The foundation is particularly interested in proposals that outline effective teaching strategies, align early childhood systems in their communities, and focus on building family economic security and strong family engagement in education. 

Applications must be received no later than September 23, 2013. If selected, applicants will be invited to provide a full proposal in October 2013. Selected grantees will be notified of their awards in December 2013. Grant awards are expected to be up to $500,000 for one to three years.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Webinar: Using the New Poverty Data

Together, the Coalition for Human Needs, the Community Action Partnership and the Children’s Leadership Council are hosting a webinar about the upcoming release of survey data from the Census Bureau. The data, which will be released on September 17 and 19, will highlight key information about poverty, income, health insurance, housing and employment throughout the nation. As key data points, the “Using the New Poverty Data” webinar will highlight how advocates can use this information to identify needs and challenges that exist in states, regions and communities.

Webinar presenters will include:

  • Jared Bernstein: What to Expect from the New Data. Bernstein is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and will help participants consider questions like, Is poverty likely to increase or decrease, and for whom? In the third year after the recession, was family income up or down? Are more people getting health insurance, or going without? 
  • Deborah Weinstein: Using the New Data. Weinstein is the Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs and will help participants understand quick and easy routes to the information you need. You’ll learn how to find fast answers to questions like: how many children are poor in my state or locality? How many families spend more than a third of their income on rent? How many are lifted out of poverty by tax credits, unemployment benefits, or SNAP? How many have not finished high school? Who has health insurance? 
  • Ellen Teller: Moderator. Teller is Director of Government Relations at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). 

The webinar will take place on Tuesday, September 10th from 2pm-3:30pm ET and will include time for questions. Click here to register.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Application Released

Last week, the Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the application for the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grants for FY 2013. RTT-ELC will provide approximately $280 million in competitive grants to states, with the aim of ensuring that all children enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

Since the program’s inception in 2011, nine states have been awarded grants to improve young children’s access to high-quality early learning and development programs and to close educational gaps for children with high needs. The program also supports states’ efforts to integrate their early learning and development programs and services.

The RTT-ELC competition focuses on five key areas of reform:
  • Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the state's existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the state's early learning and development agenda and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
  • Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the state to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality;
  • Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children to develop common standards within the state and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, as well as inform, engage and support families;
  • Supporting A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
  • Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.
Applications are due from state governors’ offices on October 16, 2013, and a technical assistance planning workshop will be offered on September 10, 2013. More details on the workshop will be posted here as they become available. Grant awards are expected to be announced in December and, according to ED, will range from $37.5 million up to $75 million.