Exploring TV’s new obsession with ‘Poverty Porn’

One of our regular readers, Jayne Linney, runs a fascinating blog over at http://jaynelinney.wordpress.com/. In one of her recent posts she examines the renewed surge of interest in patronising documentaries about poor communities. Definitely worth a read:



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Why isn’t the child poverty consultation more child friendly?

Children's focus group room (Copyright Sarah Brooks-Wilson, 2014)

Children’s focus group room. (Copyright Sarah Brooks-Wilson, 2014)

In this guest post Sarah Brooks-Wilson examines whether the UK government’s latest consultation on child poverty is likely to be accessible to those most affected.

What a huge relief that as adults, we no longer need to speak on behalf of children.  Last week the UK Government launched a child poverty e-consultation which invited the views of children as well the usual selection of interested parties.  As the importance of children’s participation was also very recently restated, consideration of the way they access, understand and respond to strategic discussions remains of key importance.  Usefully, the Government’s consultation principles concur, favouring broad, inclusive processes where the ‘hard to reach’ become part of a robust policy solution.  Yet despite these mandatory commitments, government consultations often remain inaccessible to those who may be impacted.  Continue reading

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An instinct for fairness?

Sharing money

I’m just now getting around to reading Joseph Stiglitz’s book from last year The Price of Inequality. There’s lots of interesting stuff in there, some of which I may end up talking about here on the blog. But as I was reading the other day, there was one particular section that struck me. He’s talking about some of the things that classical economic theory (with its ruthless devotion to efficiency) has trouble with, and the example he brings up is human beings’ strange preoccupation with fairness.

 According to classical economics, in any transaction people should only be interested in maximising their personal gain (properly understood). Continue reading

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Practical privilege

We don’t usually just post links to other articles here, but I was really impressed by this honest description of privilege from the side of the privileged. He really nails how his path into his career was so much easier and smoother because he ‘looked the part’:


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The Habits of Highly Annoying Get-Rich Gurus

Coverage on Australian news

Sorry for the extended holiday hiatus everyone. Both Brendan and I have been really busy and have struggled to find time for blogging. But now we’re back, so why not let us start the year with something horribly depressing and infuriating – Happy 2014 everyone!

This is something I saw at the end of last year, and have been meaning to write about since. It’s a list of comparisons of the habits of the rich and poor compiled by a US money guru called Dave Ramsey, culled from a book by fellow money advice guy, Tom Corley. I wouldn’t normally write about the witterings of random “Biblically inspired” American financial advisers, but this list got a lot of  coverage last year in the States. Admittedly, a lot of the coverage was negative; but with 470,000 Facebook likes, it obviously struck a chord somewhere. Continue reading

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Conference Announcement: Complex Systems, Health Disparities & Population Health: Building Bridges

Conference on Complex Systems, Health Disparities & Population Health: Building Bridges

February 24-25, 2014
Natcher Conference Center
NIH Campus, Bethesda, MD

Presented by the University of Michigan Network on Inequality, Complexity and Health

Improving population health and eliminating health disparities is a critical task, yet our efforts are stymied by the complexity of the task, involving as it does causes of poor health that range from public policy to the nature of our neighborhoods to how we behave to biology.  On February 24-25, 2014, at the National Institutes of Health Natcher Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland, join scholars and practitioners from the United States and abroad to learn about and see examples of how complex systems science can help guide our research and policy efforts to eliminate health disparities and improve the health of our population.

For additional information: http://tinyurl.com/complexitydisparitiespophealth

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The Boris Johnson ‘Cornflake’ model of social mobility

Cornflake lifeboat

There are some Boris Johnson news stories we can all enjoy. Like that time he fell in a river. Or when he got stuck up on a zip-wire. Or even when he rescued that woman being menaced by youths – astride his trusty bicycle, the world’s most unlikely knight errant. Then there are the less fun stories, where he expresses an opinion about something and we have to take him seriously because he’s a senior politician and might actually be Prime Minister one day.

As such, I feel it is my sad duty to dig into his comments about IQ and social mobility, to see whether he is being “carelessly elitist”, or whether he might actually have a point. Continue reading

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What are elite universities for?


A perennial question in higher education is whether elite institutions like Oxford and Cambridge are doing enough to recruit people from outside the traditional pool of white private-school kids. Every year we have the same conversation, and reach the same conclusion: probably not. What I didn’t realise until recently was that this debate assumes something very specific about the role of the top universities. It assumes that the job of these institutions, the ones with the most resources and (supposedly) the best academics, is to find and train the most talented students. Continue reading

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New Evidence on Social Isolation and Mortality

Daniel Goldberg examines a new study establishing the link between social isolation and mortality, and asks what these findings might reveal about the pathways leading to health inequalities.

In his 2000 book Bowling Alone, sociologist Robert Putnam famously declared that “[i]f you smoke and belong to no groups, it’s a toss-up statistically whether you should stop smoking or start joining.”  This is obviously a provocative phrase, especially for the contingent of public health stakeholders that are undeniably a large part of Putnam’s current audience.

Putnam is one of the world’s foremost experts on the idea of social capital, which focuses on “social relations that have productive benefits.”  The concept is both highly contested and yet is generally regarded as extremely important in clear thinking about health inequities and the social determinants of health. Continue reading

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The Immense Benefit of Applying to One More College – A Natural Experiment

UnknownA college degree is more than a wall ornament – it represents immense financial benefits for graduates. These rewards have become even more apparent during the long financial downturn, which have seen widening wage and employment gaps between college graduates and those with only a high school degree. Studies also illustrate that getting students to attend more selective colleges puts them on a trajectory to perform better in the labor market after graduation.

In spite of the benefits of college, low-income and minority high school graduates are much less likely to attend any college – and selective colleges specifically – than are higher-income, white counterparts that have similar test scores and grades. Encouraging more disadvantaged youth to increase their application pool turns out to be a very inexpensive way to increase their college attendance rates and attendance of selective colleges in particular.

In a recent paper, Amanda Pallais studies the effect of a change to the ACT, a popular college entrance exam, that increased the number of free score reports sent to colleges from three to four starting in the fall of 1997. Continue reading

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