Archive Hosted by the AFL-CIO

Tuesday Talk: Strategies for Fighting Poverty

September 16, 2013 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Today the U.S. Census is set to release its annual numbers on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage. In Minnesota, recent trends have been troubling:

  • Since 2000, median household income has declined $5,400 in constant 2011 dollars.
  • Minnesota’s poverty rate edged up from 8% in the late 90s to 12% today, with even higher rates in Minneapolis and some parts of greater Minnesota.
  • The poverty rate for people of color is a staggering 28% in Minnesota and 25% nationally.
  • Poverty rates are especially high among young adults at 26%.
  • Nearly 1/3 of school children qualify for free lunch, another 7% eligible for reduced price lunch.
  • Jobs creation has remained flat while the population has grown 10% over the last decade.

This is happening at a time when there’s enormous wealth growth at the top of the income scale. If we’re serious about the complex challenges of closing Minnesota’s equity gap, we must put real resources behind the effort.

Today between 8-9:30, Wilder Research’s Craig Helmstetter will join us to answer your questions about poverty and how to use the information we have to build an economy that works for all Minnesotans.

What do you think is at the root of these disappointing numbers in Minnesota?

What are your ideas to lift Minnesotans out of poverty?


Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use "refresh" to see new comments. 

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Craig Helmstetter says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Good morning everyone! I’m Craig Helmstetter, Senior Research Manager at Wilder Research. One of the projects I work on is Minnesota Compass, and I am happy to be with you today to talk about one of the topics we cover: Poverty.
    A couple comments for starters. First, MNCompass is a non-partisan or multi-partisan effort, supported by a consortium of foundations. Our aim is to provide credible data and information for use by anyone coming from any angle on the political spectrum (see more at
    Second, this discussion is very timely! Today during this discussion the Census is scheduled to release new poverty numbers at 9:00, so hopefully we will be able to talk about about the latest and greatest data before I sign off.

  • Joe says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:09 am

    This comment is via email from Hindsight Community Fellow Mary Treacy:
    We need to look not at the stats but at the people.  Poor people are individuals whose poverty is probably the only characteristic they share. Macho men who lost their jobs in “the recession” share joblessness and little else with homeless vets, Latino immigrants, single moms or elderly pensioners. Families who live in poverty have little in common – other than poverty. We need to focus on the poor, not the systems. One size does not fit all. The cost of understanding poverty and poor people will be human, not fiscal. Service providers need to think more about those in need than they do about institutionalizing their own fiefdoms. We need “boots on the ground” approaches that listen more than serve. The individuals and families who are living in poverty are the best resource for decision-makers who really care about the why’s, the what if’s, the barriers that inhibit our neighbors,  the tools they need, the earnest efforts that will really make a difference.

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Very true that poverty impacts a wide variety of people in a number of different ways. Men and women, children and older adults, immigrants and native born, and in all corners of our state—urban, rural, and (increasingly) suburban. So I would agree that addressing these different forms of poverty likely will need different, and tailored approaches.

      On the other hand, the data do suggest some broad common ground: Those with full-time, year round jobs - no matter their race, creed, or where they live - are very unlikely to be in poverty. Similarly, single-parent households are much more likely to be in poverty, regardless of race or ethnicity.

  • Joan B. says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:17 am

    I think the stigma around those living in poverty are tenacious, and that is here to stay, because there are plenty of people who hang on to their notions, no matter what.  I think the only way things can change is through legislation.  And the only way legislation will help people in poverty is for the majority to vote in legislators who are strong enough and sympathetic to the plight of people in poverty.

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:27 am

      There certainly can be a stigma around poverty, which might partially explain why, for example, the increase in use of food stamps jumped up somewhat after the increase in poverty occurred during the great recession. My speculation is that people were spending down their assets and (likely) trying to avoid the stigma of reaching out for assistance.

      This might be an appropriate place for me to plug an event we have tomorrow morning at Wilder Foundation: Seeing Poverty. We’ll cover data, personal stories, and what the foundation and its partners are doing to address the issue. there are still a couple seats, it is free (including free breakfast). Find out more & rsvp at

      (Apologies for the commercial, but MN2020 invited me to plug this event!)

  • Nick says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

    One of the keys to lifting families out of poverty is education.  A successful model for engaging the entire community in this work is the community school model.  Community schools with wrap around services to help take care of barriers that get in the way of learning for the students inside the school, while also being an area where there parents know they can come to get help with finding housing, employment, etc. so that they can get back on their feet and provide stability for their students—which is what all parents want to do.

    I had the privilege of opening and working at John A. Johnson Elementary in St. Paul for 12 years.  This is one of the Achievement Plus schools that is a partnership of Wilder and SPPS.  For years, our population was more stable than surrounding East Schools with similar demographics, and the Achievement Plus sites were showing higher achievement as well.  I was wondering if Craig can tell us if there are plans to expand the number or the amount of support to the current Achievement Plus sites to allow more families access to the wrap around services within them?

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:34 am

      It is true that one of the troubling aspects of the recent increase in poverty are the potentially longer-lasting impacts on kids, and their education. For example, we know that while 57% of 3rd graders in Minnesota met the new state reading standards, kids from higher income families were much more likely to meet standards (71%), than were their lower-income counter-parts (38%).

      To the question of Achievement Plus: Yes that model has shown some promise (and thanks for your work there, Nick). So much so that expanding that sort of model is a big part of the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood initiative that Wilder Foundation and *many* community partners are involved in. (For more on that see: )

  • Jeff Van Wychen says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:22 am

    This is a critical subject.  The growth in poverty and the decline in median household income are two of the biggest obstacles to a robust economic recovery.  Without more consumer purchasing power in the hands of lower- and middle-income consumers, the aggregate demand for private sector goods and services will be weak and as a result job growth will also be weak.

    Craig—what approaches do you recommend for addressing the rise in poverty in recent years?  Increasing the minimum wage?  Strengthening the ability of labor to bargain collectively for wages and benefits?  An improved public safety net?  All of the above?  Or something else entirely?  Thanks for lending your expertise to this important discussion!

    • Joe says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Jeff, the other day you pointed out an interesting correlation between increasing per capita income and declining median household income… can you expand on that?

      • Jeff Van Wychen says:

        September 17, 2013 at 8:48 am

        In MN and the U.S., median household income has fallen significantly since 2000, while per capita personal income has increased.  Per capita income is a good measure of the total amount of societal income, but median income is a better measure of the income of the typical household.  Thus, while the total income of both the state and nation has increased so far this century, the income of the typically family has declined.  This speaks to the entire problem of income concentration (i.e., how an increasing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top one or two percent of households).

        • Craig Helmstetter says:

          September 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

          Yes, good statistics 101: The per capita average can go up from one very very rich person, even while incomes can stagnate or even go down for the vast majority.

          On a related note, inequality is often measured using something called a Gini Coefficient. The new census CPS numbers, released just minutes ago state:
          “The Gini index was 0.477 in 2012, not statistically different from 2011. Since 1993, the earliest year available for comparable measures of income inequality, the Gini index has increased 5.2 percent.”

          ( )

          • Jeff Van Wychen says:

            September 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

            Good point, Craig.  For those not familiar with the Gini coefficient, the greater the coefficient, the greater the level of income inequality.  So the increase in the Gini coefficient that Craig cites means increased income inequality.

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:39 am

      Thanks Jeff. I think MN2020 and similar organizations are in a better position to make policy recommendations than we are at Wilder Research. We are definitely willing to shine a light on policies and programs that have empirical evidence of success, but much of our work is aimed at getting past the argument over what the data are telling us, in the spirit of the old saying “people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts”

      That said, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and those of others, in what you see as the most promising policies.

    • Catherine D. says:

      September 18, 2013 at 5:46 am

      Jeff’s comments on household income & purchasing power go to the root of our stagnant economy problem.

      When families wages or income declines because of job loss or cuts in hours, they change their shopping habits. No more trips to the mall, and maybe not many trips to Target either. Grocery shopping is not at the big name chains but at the deep discount or big box stores & folks really watch for deals. The Dollar Stores & thrift shops are seeing much more business as folks change their spending habits. People are voting with their feet & pocketbooks. It’s a vicious cycle, because without the robust customer traffic, businesses like Target, Macy’s etc. suffer too & report weak earnings & profits. Businesses especially retail are forced to do cuts in staff. Repeat as required.

      The USA has gone from a manufacturing nation to a consumer nation. Because of this shift, I’m not convinced that strengthening labor unions is a solution that will work. Unless unions can effectively organize the service workers, these occupations will continue to be underpaid & exploited. Our economy is now so diversified compared to 40 or 50 years ago that unions can’t (and shouldn’t) be looking to the same old organizing formulas.  And there is much more global competition than before, putting further pressure on our wages, unions, balance of trade & economy.
      Mandating an Increase in the wage rates is one answer to the economic malaise we have. The mininum wage has not at all kept pace with inflation for the last 20 years. Adjusted for inflation the minimum wage should be close to $20 per hour. We’ve survived because the American worker has relied on some clever crutches to prop up household income: 1) putting Mom into the workforce (with detremental effects on our family life), 2) taking on additonal part-time jobs (adding to our stress levels & sleep deficit), 3) tapped into our home equity, running up the credit card balances or raiding the retirement funds (thus causing intense personal financial pain when the housing bubble burst & the recession hit). Now we’ve reached the end of the lifeline, have no more easy fixes & are still in a weak economy. We are now facing some hard choices with the clock running down.

      We could look to the lessons & what worked back during the Great Depression: enlarging the social safety net, a “new GI bill” or public service coupled with education benefits (such as Americorps)  for higher educational opportunities, government funded civic projects (like the WPA that would address our infrastructure needs), more funding of basic research & science, etc.

      Granted these initiatives would cost tax dollars, but in the long run, we’d have a better educated workforce, improved infrastructure, be able to compete in the global economy & increase our families economic security.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I believe one of the big reasons for the lack of jobs to help reverse increased poverty in Minnesota is that both the federal and state governments were in the hands of right-wing politicians who failed (or refused) to raise the revenue needed to carry out long-term improvements in infrastructure—such as repairing or replacing our huge number of failing bridges and some schools.

    Governor Dayton and the current legislature are trying to turn this around and will, I hope, succeed.

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Increasing access to jobs is certainly a key to addressing poverty. In a recent analysis we did of 2011 American Community Survey data (Census) found that only 2% of those with full-time, year-round jobs were in poverty. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those people were making a lot of money—but it does point out that very few people with full-time stable employment are among the state’s poorest.

  • Colleen O'Connor Toberman says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Craig, I’m constantly struck by the racial disparities, and especially by the fact that Minnesota (generally a high-achieving state) has such serious disparities in income, education, health, employment, etc. between its white residents and its residents of color. Why do you think Minnesota has such serious gaps, and what’s your vision for addressing them?

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 8:56 am

      Colleen, thanks for your comment. More people are becoming aware of what I am starting to call the “Minnesota paradox”: A high quality of life that, unfortunately, is not shared by all.
      Poverty is a case in point: Minnesota has about a 12% poverty rate, which places us 11th lowest among states overall (not in the top ten, but not too bad). And when we compare non-Hispanic White Minnesotans with their counter parts we also stack up fairly well: the 8% poverty rate for Whites in MN ranks 9th compared to whites in all other states.
      However, the poverty rate among people of color is actually higher here in MN, than is the case nation wide. For example, 35 percent of African Americans in MN are living in poverty, which ranks near the bottom at 44th.

      What should be done about this is not an easy question to answer. We do know, though, that MN is also home to some of the nation’s very worst racial gaps when it comes to employment and education—so working to close those gaps will likely lead to a narrowing of the poverty and income gaps in our state as well.

      • Colleen O'Connor Toberman says:

        September 17, 2013 at 9:10 am

        Thanks, Craig. I hear a lot about closing the education gap, but there seems to be less conversation about the employment gap. For those who suffered educational disparities and are now adults suffering employment disparities, what initiatives are helpful? Do you know of any best practices out there that are closing the racial gap?

      • Mary Cecconi says:

        September 17, 2013 at 9:22 am

        Craig, I appreciate your work! One idea that I would like to drop into the mix is our focus on “closing the achievement gap”. I believe it has been a red herring because gaps in achievement are inevitable. i.e. We could close the achievement gap simply by NOT teaching high achieving learners….not the smartest idea, but certainly a way to “close the gap”. This is why the focus is wrong headed. Now I know there will be consternation over this remark, but please stay with me.

        What we should be focusing on is reducing the PREDICTABILITY that low income students or students of color are consistently on the losing side of gaps. While we can never close gaps, we CAN reduce the likelihood that children will be trapped in poverty. If we put as much energy into stopping predictability as we have in talking about “closing the achievement gap”, we can do this.

        I am often asked what the best education policy would be to end poverty. Simple, don’t worry about giving schools another dollar, just provide universal health care, affordable housing, livable wage and a transportation system that helps reduce mobility for families.

        • Craig Helmstetter says:

          September 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

          Hi Mary. Your last comment reminds me of something my wife, a school psychologist in an inner-ring suburb, once said in response to a question about what the best thing we could do to increase educational outcomes. Her snap response was “stabilize housing.” She noted from her own experience that no matter how good a school might be, it is very difficult to make progress with kids who are bouncing around from school to school.
          It turns out that her experience is consistent with the findings of a great study done here locally by Ann Masten, David Heistad, et. al., which confirms exactly what my wife was experiencing. (
          It does get a bit circular: to improve income we must improve education… To improve education we must stabilize housing… to stabilize housing we must improve income…  - But the good part of all of this is that you can jump in at any point in the cycle and your impact in that one area may well have positive ripple effects in others (e.g., I gave someone a job and it improved their income… which improved their housing… which made it easier for their kids to learn.)

  • Stephanie Hogenson says:

    September 17, 2013 at 8:54 am

    While it’s important to analyze and assess the way the Census Bureau poverty measure, it does not entirely address the economic plight of families in Minnesota and across the country. Just because a family moves $1 above the poverty line does not mean that family is economically stable. That’s why we at Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota work toward ensuring economic stability for all Minnesota families. We know that children have better health, academic and social outcomes when their families are more economically stable. That’s why we support the Legislative Commission to End Poverty recommendations to end poverty and promote family economic stability by:

    Increasing the minimum wage.
    Providing a guarantee of child care to low-income families by full funding and expanding the Child Care Assistance Program.
    Ensuring quality preschool programs to all children from low-income families. Investing early in children can end the cycle of poverty.
    Increasing opportunities for families to develop assets by eliminating public work support program asset tests, expanding asset development programs like FAIM, and increasing the value of tax credits for working families.

    When the Urban Institute simulated a similar proposal, which included increasing minimum wage, expanding child care assistance, increasing the Working Family Credit, expanding food support participation and providing adult training and education, for the bipartisan Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020, the findings were remarkable:

    287,000 fewer Minnesotans, including 89,000 children, living in or near poverty (27% decrease),
    35,000 additional Minnesotans in the workforce, and
    $10 billion increase in net wages.

    We can end poverty and we can make families more economically stable.

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Thanks for weighing in Stephanie! I am glad you highlighted the work of the legislative commission, which was one of the broader-ranging and bi-partisan efforts to address this issue on a state wide basis in recent years. Find out more at:

      Also want to give a shout out to the MN Kids Count work that comes out of another side of your office. Great work on tracking some of the same sort of information that we track on MNCompass, and great work raising awareness around issues important to children and families.

      • Stephanie Hogenson says:

        September 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

        Thanks, Craig. Our 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book: A Data Visualization of child well-being will be released in early October. It highlights economic security and income inequality, so we know it will add to this discussion.

  • Craig Helmstetter says:

    September 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

    OK, here it is, breaking news from

    “The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2012, real median household income and the poverty rate were not statistically different from the previous year, while the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased….”

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 9:04 am

      And: “In 2012, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.8 percent and 9.5 million. Neither level was statistically different from the 2011 estimates.”

      • Craig Helmstetter says:

        September 17, 2013 at 9:09 am

        And “No age group experienced a statistically significant change in the number or rates of people in poverty between 2011 and 2012, with one exception: the number of people 65 and older in poverty rose between 2011 and 2012.”

        • Lee Egerstrom says:

          September 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

          Craig’s noting the senior citizens in poverty is significant for several rural Minnesota counties and hundreds of Minnesota small towns, although it may appear minor in aggregate Minnesota numbers. Many rural communities are dependent on retiree residents. In some western border towns, the main source of household income is Social Security payments. This doesn’t provide the community financial resources to encourage expansion of retail and service enterprises, or any type of economic development. Communities caught in this situation have bleak outlooks.

  • Ryan Fiereck says:

    September 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Society needs to create a position that allows for poverty to be unacceptable.  Identify thoughtful roles to prop our dienfranchised up at any cost to allow them to be productive and valued citzens.  We must identify where our greatest consistant resources exhist and provide those locations with pipelines to helping those strickened with poverty. 

    I know that this would be expensive and a burden on the public dollar.  But we need solutions that support those in the state of highest needs.

    • Craig Helmstetter says:

      September 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

      In terms of the public dollar, helping people escape poverty may be a good investment. We have not done a complete cot-benefit on any of this, but it is true, for example, that diabetes rates are much higher at the lowest ends of the income distribution (see

      Speaking of links between health and poverty: We have done a couple reports in recent years that documented that life expectancy tends to be shorter in low-income neighborhoods here in the Twin Cities - by as much as 8 years. So there appear to be some very real consequences, beyond the hassle and stress of not being able to make ends meet, for people livinging in poverty.

  • KJC says:

    September 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

    There’s dealing with symptoms, and there is dealing with causes.  We have a lot of programs that deal with an array of symptoms, and those are very real issues…and those programs are constantly being threatened.  When you strip away the rhetoric, it’s nearly always some version of “I’ve got mine, and I don’t want to pay for you” identity politics.  Seldom have I heard anyone advocating for “smaller government” suggest any cuts for themselves.  Since you lead by example…and we all know that… that pretty much settles it, doesn’t it?  Do we need to work on the remediation of hardship and its symptoms?  Absolutely. 
    And?  We should get around to dealing with causes, too.  Henry Ford provided a great example 100 years ago.  He noted that long-term prosperity only comes from productivity increases (and there has been plenty of that in America the last 30 years) and then only if the fruits of that productivity are SHARED… so he doubled workers wages.  Otherwise?  You eventually get a stagnation of aggregate demand, from stagnant (or dropping) wages.  How do we “fix” that?  Legislation.  Higher minimum wages, as one example.  Many U.S. companies profitably pay an adult minimum wage of $15 in… Australia.  So I don’t ant to hear it can’t be done… it already has. 
    We do need to build some version of the sustainable model that Henry Ford put-his-money-where-his-mouth-was.  I’m for federal legislation that says “If you want to sell here, you will employ here.”  All our global competitors do that, in various (and often unfair) ways.  Making sure there are wages here, to buy things, is just the fundamental answer Henry Ford was pointing at.  He was a great businessman, who put us on wheels, that changed everything… and he did not have the slightest liberal intent as he did it, it was just long-term thinking, instead of “grab and run” opportunism that so often seems to pass as “business” these days.  We need a focus on Main Street, not Wall Street…and Henry Ford would have agreed.

  • William Nelson says:

    September 17, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Government and business management has gotten too far away from the citizens and the workers.  Decisions regarding both government and business should be more localized.  Generally, people should work less and pay more attention to their families, communities, and local politics. 

    Big business has taken money out of local communities and not given it back or allowed it to circulate.  Big box business refuses to pay its employees a living wage or support local institutions; and, because they are “successful businesses”  (they make huge profits), other businesses follow their model.  Therefore, the problem will get bigger. Our current business/economic philosophy and system is oppressive for a majority of the population and is getting worse. 

    If we muster the political will, we (USA) can meet the basic needs (food, shelter, education, healthcare) of every American.  No one in this country should be hungry, homeless, ignorant, or sickly.  Furthermore, if we actually cared about the happiness and well-being of every human being, and made that our ultimate goal (instead of profit and accumulating stuff), we could solve nearly every “problem” we have worldwide.

  • NAME says:

    September 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    It has always seemed to me that living in poverty was defined by whether or not family income was below a certain, predefined level.  So the cumulative annual income from family members who work would determine whether or not that family is living in poverty.  Job income, then, is the critical factor.  The price we pay for nearly all goods and services goes to worker income.  The problem in Minnesota, indeed in all of America, is that the division of business income devoted to salaries and wages is spread out over too large a range.  The determiners or deciders of that range have factored in too much personal greed.  If company owners take too much of their company’s profit for themselves, then there is simply less too spread out to their employees.  If more such deciders paid attention to that Biblical phrase about “being your brother’s keeper” there would be far less income disparity in our state and nation.  We would be a healthier society in many respects. In place of that we have this enormous income range so in order to keep low income, poverty level citizens from dying, we have to tax the rich at rates higher than they prefer.  This is the fundamental reason we have two political parties with substantially different platforms, and the continuous angst that creates Washington gridlock.

  • Maura Schnorbach, Social Justice Coordinator at St says:

    September 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Good morning! I am Maura Schnorbach, the new Social Justice Coordinator at St. Patrick’s Church in Edina. I have been working with the Social Justice Commission to create an event that ties in with the conversation today. We hope that you will join us!

    The Church of St. Patrick’s in Edina is tackling this issue by inviting some of the most innovative thought leaders in Social Justice to discuss, “How can I create a more ethical and equitable economy?” on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Mahon Center. Fr. Larry Snyder, CEO of Catholic Charities USA and author of, Think and Act Anew will give a keynote.

    We will have a Q&A with Tim Marx, CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Sr. Amata Miller, IHM, PHD and Professor of Economics at St. Catherine University. We will also have break out sessions with Fr. Tim Manatt, S.J., President of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Ms. Helen Dahlman, President of Risen Christ School, Ms. Jacquie Berglund, Founder and CEO of Finnegans Beer, Ms. Cathy Heying, CEO and Founder of the Lift Garage, Ms. Kathleen Tomlin, Vice President for Social Justice Advocacy, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Ms. Ana Ashby, Public Policy Organizer, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Ms.Terri Ellis, Past Chair and current Social Justice Commissioner at St. Patrick’s.

    Our event will focus on pathways out of poverty through Education, Employment, Legislative Action and Social Justice Ministries. We are very interested in “B” Corporations, the Social Enterpreneurship model combining of combining a for profit business with a charitable focus. Two of our panelists will be talking about operating businesses and doing good at the same time!

    We believe it will be an inspiring evening! If you would like to register, please go to to register. The cost is $10 and includes a box lunch dinner!

  • Maura Schnorbach says:

    September 17, 2013 at 10:32 am

    One of the things that we are focusing on at St. Patrick’s is the bigger, broader and more dynamic story of Social Justice. We are trying to encourage members of the community to consider ways that they can change the landscape of poverty.

    Someone mentioned raising wages of workers. I believe this is both an economic and a justice issue. If this issue were reframed to discuss the potential markets, “hidden in plain sight”. Companies may not need to seek out new international markets, if workers were paid higher wages, they could purchase new products and services…

    If our conversations referenced the vision of Henry Ford, one of the greatest innovators in American history, we may begin to change people’s minds about the importance of fair wages. He recognized that if his workers could not afford to purchase his cars, he could never build an automobile industry.

    The CEO of Starbuck’s just shared that he believes he has a marketing and branding advantage by paying health care for his employees. He sees it as a market differentiator. And, he believes it is good for business!

    Growing our economy through good jobs that pay benefits and living wages makes sense. I think it is important to focus on this when we talk about poverty. Communicating that we believe in a strong, robust economy while supporting innovative schools, community agencies, etc. is vital.

    These issues not only make sense from a justice perspective, but from an economic perspective. Empowering people to become self-sufficient creates dignity and hope. And, it makes our economy more vital.

    What about micro loans? What about creating incentives for businesses to reinvest in the economy and free up some of the capital that is “sitting on the sidelines?”...




  • Craig Helmstetter says:

    September 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Thanks all for the great conversation! I’ll check back as I am able. Those of you on twitter can find me at @c_helmstetter, and if you are interested in seeing some of the new poverty, income, and health insurance data that are coming out, stay tuned to - a lot of the information that we have there seems like a nice compliment to the civil discourse and policy solutions that MN2020 is promoting around some of the state’s most pressing needs.

  • Denise Lindquist says:

    September 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Wish there was a simple solution to poverty.  I think about my mother telling my daughter that she was really glad to receive the gift box she sent as she gets really hungry at the end of the month.  My mother was on a fixed income $600 a month social security.  How does anyone live on that?  After that 6 of us took turns sending a care package at the end of every month.
    I think about the people who go off to prison cause of drugs/alcohol and when they get out they can not get housing.  They can not get jobs.  What are they to do?  Reoffend and go back to get food and shelter?  Didn’t they get there punishment for there crime behind bars or do they have a life long sentence?
    Our veterans that are homeless…how does this happen?
    Our homeless children and elders… our most vulnerable are homeless.
    Rich can and should pay more taxes.  Give more. 
    Education is important.  Not always the answer as my brother has an education and lives in poverty.  My brother has a double degree but is a practicing alcoholic (stayed sober but smoked pot when in school) and has a reputation.  He steals, lies and cheats for survival and to support his family.  He could do it differently but he is stuck in this.  And he lives in the most racist town in the state, in my opinion.
    If you have white privelege, that can help… especially if you have the right vocabulary.
    Close knit families… understanding cultures so you can use the intricacies to help solve the poverty issues in so many cultures.  Understanding that in American Indian culture, many think that the best people are those that give the most not those who have the most!  My mother had more at one time and she was always broke at the end of the month.  She always gave to others all the time at her own expense.  I always think about people i’ve known that knew all the free stores, where to get anything for little to no money.  How to work the system.  Get there needs met and others too.  A woman recently told me the Mong have shared money, so that a young mong woman was sharing how she had to buy her sister… I asked if she had a choice and she said the money she made wasnt just her money.  American Indian extended family is about shared resources including money.  Hard to understand unless you live in this way.  When I went home (mom’s) I would always buy groceries for the house, pay for a movie for whoever was going and buy gas for mom.  I always took smoked fish or other treats to family.  Didn’t have to but expected and sharing the wealth. (cultural)