Category : Personal Finance

(PewR) Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians

Income inequality, a measure of the economic gap between the rich and poor, has risen steadily in the United States since the 1970s. More recently, the issue burst into public consciousness with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 and subsequent calls for a $15 minimum wage. An important part of the story of rising income inequality is that experiences within America’s racial and ethnic communities vary strikingly from one group to the other.

Today, income inequality in the U.S. is greatest among Asians. From 1970 to 2016, the gap in the standard of living between Asians near the top and the bottom of the income ladder nearly doubled, and the distribution of income among Asians transformed from being one of the most equal to being the most unequal among America’s major racial and ethnic groups.

In this process, Asians displaced blacks as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the U.S., according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. While Asians overall rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the U.S., it is not a status shared by all Asians: From 1970 to 2016, the gains in income for lower-income Asians trailed well behind the gains for their counterparts in other groups.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Personal Finance, Sociology

(IFS) Straight Talk About the Success Sequence, Marriage, and Poverty

Some communities in America convey the success sequence’s three rules to their young adults very emphatically. The importance of these norms gets through loud and clear in much of Mormon Utah, many immigrant communities, and in countless upper-middle class homes, neighborhoods, and schools across the nation. A whole host of stories, ideals, expectations, and norms in these communities foster adherence to the success sequence. This adherence, in turn, reduces the odds that their young adults end up poor, even when those young adults hail from poor and working-class families. It’s no accident, for instance, that children raised in lower-income families from Utah have markedly higher rates of economic mobility than children raised in lower-income families in most other states, or that children raised by poor Chinese immigrants from Brooklyn are much more likely than other poor children in New York City to get into the city’s elite public high schools, positioning them to move into the middle class or higher as adults. These young adults have been formed by communities that reinforce their own versions of the sequence—even in the face of social structural obstacles that make following the sequence more difficult.

There’s no reason, however, to limit the success sequence’s message to the offspring of the privileged, particular immigrant groups, or the religious. All young Americans—regardless of their parents’ education, ethnicity, or religious commitments (or lack thereof)—deserve to hear straight talk about the importance of education, work, and marriage. Although this message is not a panacea, and it is not a substitute for taking policy actions to address structural disadvantages —like reforming education, expanding the child tax credit, and increasing wage subsidies—we owe it to our young people to tell them the truth about how the exercise of their own agency in the direction of particular choices rather than others is likely to affect their own financial future. Doing anything less is just one more way in which our country locks in durable inequality for poor, Black, and Hispanic young men and women, and increases the odds that they forge a path into adulthood not towards the American dream, but towards poverty.

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Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Poverty, Sociology

(Axios) 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance

(Forbes) Religious Organizations Rally To Preserve Current Tax Treatment Of Clergy Housing Allowances

The wonderful thing about this litigation is how it brings different faith communities together in their desire to protect their cherished tax benefit. Not yet available is the brief from the following amici – Christian Legal Society, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, National Association of Evangelicals, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Council of Churches of New York City,  and Queens Federation of Churches.   Last time around there was a brief that included The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission (Southern Baptists, the second largest denomination in the United States probably have the most skin in this game) and   The International Society for Krishna Consciousness and The Islamic Center of Boca Raton.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Inter-Faith Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(NYT) A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. I

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, State Government, Taxes

A Superb PAW profile piece on MicroLender and Activist José Quiñonez

[Isabel] Caudillo’s is a true American immigrant tale. She came to the United States in 2001 from Mexico City with nothing except a love of cooking. At home she would prepare traditional foods such as stews, beans and rice, and her mother’s mole verde that reminded her of home. A San Francisco community group helped her open a small stand in the Noe Valley Farmers Market, but the low profit margins made it impossible for her to grow.

An industrial steamer, which she needed to make her tamales, cost $1,400, far more than Caudillo had saved. Through a friend, she heard about the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), a community nonprofit organization headed by José Quiñonez *98 that administers “lending circles,” small person-to-person savings groups, to help low-income people put aside money and build credit.

Not only was Caudillo able to save enough to buy a steamer, but by reporting her lending-circle payments to credit agencies, the MAF made it possible for her to build a high credit score, which in turn enabled her to obtain a bank loan she used to open her second location.

“Lending circles were our first financial door,” Caudillo says in a testimonial on the organization’s website. “They gave me access to loans to open my own restaurant, which is something I never could have imagined. But more important than that, they helped me learn to manage the financial system to open even more opportunities in the future.”

Quiñonez, a soft-spoken man with a trim salt-and-pepper beard, was brought to the United States illegally when he was a child and grew up poor. Today he has a community organizer’s gift for phrasemaking. He often reasons by antitheses, one of which is this: Being poor is expensive.

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Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Theology

A picture is Worth 100 Words–The Fading Western Dream

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Economy, England / UK, Europe, History, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance

Perspective from the Pages of History–the Revolution of Personal Checking Accounts in 1954

Posted in * Economics, Politics, History, Personal Finance

Andrew Wilson–Inequality, Privilege, and the Upper Middle Class

Inequality is one of the most entrenched, persistent and socially divisive problems in the modern West. Yet most of us misdiagnose the problem. We imagine that the issue lies with those much better off than us—the 1%, the super-rich, or whatever we call them—rather than with people like us. (More than a third of the Occupy demonstrators in 2011 had annual earnings of over $100k.) Richard Reeves sees things differently. In his Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What To Do About It, he argues that the top 20%, rather than the top 1%, is the real problem, and he admits that this puts both him and the vast majority of his readers in the firing line. “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Theology

(Atlantic) Low-Income Communities Are Struggling to Support Churches

If there is ever a competition for the title of Busiest Minister in America, the smart money will be on Yoan Mora, senior pastor of Primera Iglesia Cristiana, a small but vibrant Spanish-speaking congregation in San Antonio, Texas. The weeks are nuts: worship services, classes, and meetings on Sundays; a radio program on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; prayer service and Bible study on Tuesdays; house church meetings in the southern reaches of the city each Thursday; a job-training program hosted at the church on Saturdays, plus other meetings scattered through the weekend.

Those are just his top-level duties. He still has to find time to write sermons, oversee church-building maintenance, teach small groups, manage budgets, and, most of all, be with people in all the ways pastors need to be with people: births, deaths, sicknesses, celebrations, life events big, medium, and small. Being a pastor is a full-time job, and then some.

But being a pastor is not Mora’s full-time job. Most of Mora’s weekday hours are devoted to his work as an accountant at a health-care clinic in the northeast part of town. He’s also trying to finish a master’s degree in theology.

Mora believes he was placed on this earth to pastor, so that’s what he plans on doing. But for now, he can’t make a living as a pastor because the congregation he serves is in an extremely low-income neighborhood. Pastor salaries are drawn from church budgets, which are drawn from the household budgets of congregants. So in a low-income area, even when a church grows, its budget does not expand so much as stretch. Primera Iglesia Cristiana can’t pay Mora much for all his efforts, so for the foreseeable future, he’ll hustle.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT Op-ed) Ann Patchett–My Year of No Shopping

The trick of no shopping isn’t just that you don’t buy things. You don’t shop. That means no trawling the sale section of the J. Crew website in idle moments. It means the catalogs go into the recycle bin unopened on the theory that if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. Halfway through the year I could go to a store with my mother and sister if they asked me. I could tell them if the dress they were trying on looked good without wishing I could try it on myself.

Not shopping saves an astonishing amount of time. In October, I interviewed Tom Hanks about his collection of short stories in front of 1,700 people in a Washington theater. Previously, I would have believed that such an occasion demanded a new dress and lost two days of my life looking for one. In fact, Tom Hanks had never seen any of my dresses, nor had the people in the audience. I went to my closet, picked out something weather appropriate and stuck it in my suitcase. Done.

I did a favor for a friend over the summer and she bought me a pair of tennis shoes. Her simple act of kindness thrilled me. Once I stopped looking for things to buy, I became tremendously grateful for the things I received. Had I been shopping this summer I would have told my friend, “You shouldn’t have,” and I would have meant it.

It doesn’t take so long for a craving to subside, be it for Winstons or gin or cupcakes. Once I got the hang of giving shopping up, it wasn’t much of a trick.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(Guardian) Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers? The suicide rate for farmers is more than double that of veterans

Since 2013, net farm income for US farmers has declined 50%. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325. And without parity in place (essentially a minimum price floor for farm products), most commodity prices remain below the cost of production.

In an email, Rosmann wrote, “The rate of self-imposed [farmer] death rises and falls in accordance with their economic well-being … Suicide is currently rising because of our current farm recession.”

Inside the sunny lobby of the newly remodeled Onaga community hospital, where Joyce Blaske happens to work in the business department, Dr Nancy Zidek has just finished her rounds. As a family medicine doctor, she sees behavioral health issues frequently among her farmer patients, which she attributes to the stressors inherent in farming.

“If your farm is struggling, you’re certainly going to be depressed and going to be worried about how to put food on the table, how to get your kids to college,” she says.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Suicide

Christina Capecchi–The art of giving, the challenge of Advent

And so goes the drumbeat of commercialism: more, more, more.

All the while we Christians are called to answer Advent’s hushed invitation for less, less, less. To clear out our closets and turn off our phones, to resist the click-and-procure in favor of the wait-and-wonder. What a challenge it is to make space for the other, for the divine. Filling sets off all our bells and whistles; emptying requires discernment and allows for quiet.

Americans prefer the former. We have so much self-storage space, the Self Storage Association once pointed out, it is physically possible that every American could stand at the same time under the canopy of self-storage roofing.

I’ve been reflecting on the art of gift giving — what it can do for us, at its best, and what it neglects to do at its hastiest. The more you put in, the more you get out.

My neighbor recently showed me her favorite Christmas picture book, Holly Hobbie’s 2007 charmer “Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow,” in which a pair of best friends — who happen to be pigs — struggle to determine the perfect gifts for each other. Puddle labors in his attic, painting an image of the twosome in the woods. Toot, meanwhile, spends “every spare minute in his workshop in the basement” building a sled on wheels — one that will work with or without snow.

“He knew that the best present was usually something you made yourself, a one-of-a-kind thingamajig, not just a whatsit anyone could buy in a store,” Hobbie writes.

Indeed, the sweetest gifts require a commodity more precious than treasure: time.

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Posted in Advent, Consumer/consumer spending, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(WSJ) What 500 Years of Protestantism Teaches Us About Capitalism’s Future

Five centuries ago this week, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation by hammering his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

His legacy raises questions that resonate for investors today: Can Communist China become a rich country? And does the political swing towards populism threaten economic growth?

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

(America) Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry–Are Christians really supposed to be communists? A response to David Bentley Hart

Here’s the rub: The fact that I can know that God does not want me to give up all worldly goods because I support a child is precisely why I cannot rest easy. The fact that my vocation is perfectly acceptable to God is why Jesus’ thunderous words still apply to me. Jesus’ dramatic, hyperbolic words are a reminder that even while maintaining my vocation as a petit bourgeois, I can always be more radical in how I love and how I give to my fellow man. “Fearful it is to fall in the hands of the living God,” Kierkegaard reminds us in the same passage I quoted above. And how reassuring it would be for petit bourgeois Christians like myself to tell ourselves that the way Jesus preaches is for the others, for those who go into the desert.

To put it simply: poverty sine glosa is not the only way for the Christian. But that reminder should always be followed up by the always urgent reminder that we could still do with a lot less glosa and a lot more poverty.

Jesus’ hyperbole is there to remind us that we can always do more. “Let the dead bury their dead,” Christ commands us! We cannot take that to mean that all Christians everywhere should fail to pay respect to deceased loved ones. But neither can we—and this attitude is much more common, much more destructive—simply wave a magic wand of “Well, that’s hyperbole” and turn this fiery admonition into some bland platitude about detachment from worldliness. How much of my attachment to my family is a genuine expression of Christian charity, and how much is rote habit, social pressure, mere convenience that draws me away from Christ? The hyperbole is too strong for me to rest easy. How many “good Catholic” parents bemoan the decline in priests until Junior announces that he is going to the seminary and they won’t have grandchildren? Let the dead bury their dead.

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Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Stewardship, Theology: Scripture