Gabby, Ryan, and Home Opportunity for All

Even Olympians are, alas, not immune from America’s homeownership crisis. The Associated Press reported this week that the parents of U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte are facing foreclosure in Florida, while the mother of gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last year, she said, “to protect my home.”

I don’t know the circumstances of these families’ financial challenges. But the fact that families who had the discipline, commitment, and drive to raise Olympic gold medalists did not have the systems or information needed to remain successful homeowners reaffirms that the promise of American opportunity is at grave risk.

Roughly four million American families lost their homes to foreclosure between the beginning of 2007 and early 2012. Some 11 million are struggling with “underwater” mortgages, meaning that they owe more than their home is worth. That’s just under a quarter of all U.S. homes with a mortgage. For most, a perfect storm of financial industry misconduct, inadequate consumer protections, falling home prices, and record unemployment are at the core of the problem.

The Lochte and Douglas families are fortunate. Their kids are now stars who will soon be paid millions in endorsement proceeds—Gabby’s already on the cover of a cornflake box.

But for most Americans, the solutions require broader action. An alliance of consumer protection, fair lending, and housing experts have developed a Compact for Home Opportunity, with over two dozen practical, tested solutions for preventing needless foreclosures, restoring neighborhoods, and rebuilding the American dream. The Compact is powered by Home for Good, a national campaign driven by people concerned about the enduring foreclosure and housing crisis.

The Compact’s solutions range from increased access to housing counseling, to reducing loan principal to fair market value, to increased fair housing and lending protections. Some states, notably California, have adopted important elements of the Compact. But a more robust, national approach is needed. Home for Good is pushing housing issues back into the presidential contest, and onto the national agenda, demanding that candidates and policymakers take a stand on the causes and solutions to the crisis. With foreclosures and bankruptcy intruding even into the Olympic games, their call is increasingly hard to ignore.

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Connections Between Media Depictions of Black Men and Boys and Lower Life Chances

While there has been significant improvement in racial attitudes in the past half-century, the tragic death of Trayvon Martin suggests that stereotypes and bias against African Americans, especially males, still persist. The Opportunity Agenda’s new report, "Opportunity for Black Men and Boys: Public Opinion, Media Depictions, and Media Consumption," lays out evidence that African-American men and boys are grossly overrepresented in depictions of criminality and violence in the media, as compared to documented reality. These false portrayals, reasearch proves, can lead to distorted and negative perceptions as well as discriminatory treatment against African Americans.

Scholars have long documented that there is a correlation between media depictions, audiences' attitudes, and real life action. In the case of African American men and boys, extensive media audits conducted by scholars and researchers over the years show that the overall presentation of black men and boys in the media is a distortion of reality in a variety of ways, including that they:

  • are underrepresented, including as “talking heads” or as users of computers,
  • are overrepresented in certain negative depictions, such as criminality or  unemployment,
  • are limited in their positive depictions and especially to sports or entertainment,
  • are overly associated with seemingly intractable problems,
  • have important dimensions of their lives largely ignored, such as fatherhood or work lives.

Social science research has long documented that people's conscious and unconscious attitudes are shaped, at least in part, by what people take in from the media, including news reporting, entertainment, video games, and advertising. With respect to distorted media images of black men and boys, the consequences are far reaching and can result in:

  • exaggerated views related to criminality and violence,
  • public support for punitive approaches to problems,
  • general antagonism toward black males, and
  • exaggerated views, expectations, and tolerance for race-based socio-economic disparities.

Perceptions are important because they determine, in part, people's decisions and actions. Consequently, attitudes and biases against black men and boys can negatively affect them every time their fate depends on how they are perceived by others. Examples of real world impact, documented in the literature, include:

  • a higher likelihood of being shot by police,
  • harsher sentencing by judges,
  • lower likelihood of being hired or admitted to school, and
  • lower odds of getting loans.

The report points to ways in which advocates, media makers, and others can redress this stereotyping and improve life chances for black men and boys. Donwload the report here

 

 

Poverty, Opportunity, and the 2012 Presidential Election

A recent forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided an in-depth discussion into the level of concern in the United States about poverty and opportunity, particularly concerning children.Spotlight on Poverty also looked at whether or not these issues will be factors in the upcoming presidential election. Overall, people believe strongly that equal opportunity for children of all races is very important; that not all children currently have full access to opportunity; and that presidential candidates’ views on poverty are very important. But, many think that neither the candidates nor the media are discussing poverty enough.

Interestingly, there were substantial numbers of Republicans who agreed with Democrats and Independents in several of the poll’s questions. (The corresponding national poll of likely voters undertaken at the end of last year highlighted several key points; all graphics are from this poll's report.) 

Most importantly, 88 percent of respondents said that “candidates’ positions on equal opportunity for children of all races are important in deciding their vote for President,” and 55 percent said that they were very important.  

Among Democrats, 70 percent agreed that candidates’ views in this area arevery important (and an additional 25 percent said they are somewhat important). Fifty-five percent of Independents said that candidates’ views arevery important (and an additional 28 percent said they are somewhat important).  Among Republicans, 44 percent agreed that candidates’ views in this area are very important (and 42 percent said they were somewhat important). Agreeing that they are very important were 85 percent of African Americans, 62 percent of Hispanics, and 51 percent of Whites.

But, despite the level of belief in equal opportunity for children, many voters do not believe that all children have full access to it as of yet. Over half of the respondents say that “children of different races tend to face unequal barriers to opportunity.” 

In this question, researchers pointed out significant differences in the breakdowns: “By party, 70 percent of Democratic voters said children face unequal barriers, compared to 50 percent of Independents, and only 38 percent of Republicans. By race, 50 percent of white voters said children face unequal barriers, compared to a solid majority (62 percent) of non-white voters who said so as well. Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of African American voters said children of different races face unequal barriers. Somewhat surprisingly, only 48 percent of Hispanic participants agreed.”

There was strong feedback from the public that candidates’ views on poverty matter in deciding on their vote for president. Almost nine in ten respondents said that this was very (45 percent) or somewhat (42 percent) important.

Within specific demographics, 61 percent of Democrats, 42 percent of Independents, and 33 percent of Republicans agreed that candidates’ views on poverty are very important. (Another 35 percent, 40 percent, and 51 percent, respectively, agreed that candidates' views are somewhat important). Agreeing that candidates' views are very important were 76 percent of African Americans, 57 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of Whites. 

Despite the importance of this topic to voters, almost half of the respondents said that “they have not heard enough from presidential candidates about reducing poverty.” This includes four in ten Republicans, just under half of Independents, and six in ten Democrats. Half of both Whites and African Americans agree with this opinion, along with more than four in ten Hispanics.

When asked if the media has adequately covered poverty reduction during this campaign, half said no, while four in ten thought they had (10 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer). By party, six in ten Democrats said that the media hadn’t covered this issue enough, as did half of Independents and four in ten Republicans. By race, this opinion was expressed by about half of Whites and Hispanics, and by almost six in ten African Americans.

Childhood poverty can have severe, long-lasting results. The Urban Institute found the following

  • Sixty-three percent of children enter adulthood without experiencing poverty, but 10 percent of children are persistently poor, spending at least half their childhoods living in poverty.
  • Black children are roughly 2.5 times more likely than white children to ever experience poverty and 7 times more likely to be persistently poor.
  • Children who experience poverty tend to cycle into and out of poverty, and most persistently poor children spend intermittent years living above the poverty threshold.
  • Being poor at birth is a strong predictor of future poverty status. Thirty-one percent of white children and 69 percent of black children who are poor at birth go on to spend at least half their childhoods living in poverty.
  • Children who are born into poverty and spend multiple years living in poor families have worse adult outcomes than their counterparts in higher-income families.

A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed that, “over the last decade there has been a significant decline in economic well-being for low income children and families. The official child poverty rate, which is a conservative measure of economic hardship, increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009, essentially returning to the same level as the early 1990s. This increase means that 2.4 million more children are living below the federal poverty line.” 

These statistics and others illustrate the ongoing need for presidential candidates, other politicians, the media, social service providers, and everyone else, to stay focused on this issue and work to alleviate poverty in the United States.

Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: 2010 is "The Year of the Woman?"

Women bring something different to the table; a perspective that is distinct from men’s. Both experiences are equally important, and both need to be incorporated in to decision-making and represented in power-circles if we hope to embrace all viewpoints and make progress as a society. Yet advancement for women and for gender equality seems to have stagnated, and considering how far we are from equality, stagnation is tantamount to decline. When it comes to the percentage of women in national legislatures, the United States ranks 90th in the world, with women holding 90 of the 535 (16.8%) of the seats in the 111th US Congress. These numbers did not improve in the latest election.  Recent public opinion research shows that a gender gap persists in perceptions of gender inequality, and sexist messaging not only undermines a female candidate, it significantly reduces her favorability among voters.

There's more...

Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: 2010 is "The Year of the Woman?"

Women bring something different to the table; a perspective that is distinct from men’s. Both experiences are equally important, and both need to be incorporated in to decision-making and represented in power-circles if we hope to embrace all viewpoints and make progress as a society. Yet advancement for women and for gender equality seems to have stagnated, and considering how far we are from equality, stagnation is tantamount to decline. When it comes to the percentage of women in national legislatures, the United States ranks 90th in the world, with women holding 90 of the 535 (16.8%) of the seats in the 111th US Congress. These numbers did not improve in the latest election.  Recent public opinion research shows that a gender gap persists in perceptions of gender inequality, and sexist messaging not only undermines a female candidate, it significantly reduces her favorability among voters.

There's more...

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