Poverty, Stress and Health

Poverty, Stress and Health

A couple of weeks ago, two Huffington Post reporters wrote a follow up piece to a great New York Times Op-Ed that explained the link between stress, socioeconomic status (SES), and health. (Please note that the hyperlink to the Op-Ed will be added at a later date due to the Times’ current hacker issues). The main takeaway is that people in poverty (i.e. low SES) have more elevated stress levels than those with higher SES, and that people in poverty are also chronically under siege from these stress hormones. The combination of the two is also referred to as the “weathering effect.” According to researchers, this is a big deal…
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Financial Empowerment Now in California’s High Schools

Financial Empowerment Now in California’s High Schools

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 166, which adds financial literacy education to California high schools. This means that our students will be taught about important basics like budgeting, managing credit, student loans, consumer debt, and protecting themselves from identity theft. This statewide education plan for teaching financial literacy is badly needed. In the words of the bill’s author, Assemblymember Roger Hernandez, “AB 166 would improve California students’ financial literacy skills and help protect them from predatory lending, credit card fraud and other deceptive practices.” I don’t know what I want to do first: congratulate the Governor or ask his predecessors, “What took you so long?” Similar bills…
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Martin Luther King and the Arc of the Moral Universe

Martin Luther King and the Arc of the Moral Universe

A friend about half my age, whom I’ve known since he was 14, emailed me over the weekend, feeling pretty glum about the state of humanity: “It just occasionally gets a bit too overwhelming when I see all this terrible stuff going on in our country and world and so many people that are just purely apathetic about it.  What do you think, Bruce?  You’ve had a bit more experience than me, do you think things are beginning to get better, worse, or about the same in the world recently?” In figuring out how to answer my friend, I suddenly realized that – despite my tendencies toward cynicism and snarkiness…
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Four Phone Companies, Four Wildly Different Prices for the Same Plan.

Four Phone Companies, Four Wildly Different Prices for the Same Plan.

So one of websites that I check daily is Consumerist, a pro-consumer website run by the fine folks at Consumer Reports.  Today Consumerist pointed out this very cool Wireless Savings Calculator whipped up by the Wall Street Journal.  You plug in your wireless phone needs—number of phones, minutes, texts, amount of data—and it gives you the price for each of the Big Four providers.  It’s pretty nifty.  Go try it out. While you’re trying it out, ponder this:  it costs AT&T and Verizon less per customer to run their business than it costs T-Mobile and Sprint.  (Without getting too wonky about the subject, it works like this:  there’s a minimum…
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This Week in “What the…?” Separate-but-Equal Edition

This Week in “What the…?” Separate-but-Equal Edition

You couldn’t make this up: As we approach the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech, a New York City developer has come up with a startling new twist on separate-but-equal: New York, like many cities, often requires developers to include a certain number of affordable units in new housing developments. Now the NYC developer of a luxury condo building has come up with an ingenious way of separating the riffraff from the high-end condo buyers: A separate-but-not-quite-equal “affordable entrance” for the peasants in the affordable units, completely separated from the main entrance to be used by the wealthy folks. No word yet on whether…
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Got Cash?

Got Cash?

If you’ve got cash, you can get a home. But if you don’t, you may be out of luck. The California housing market is back on the rise with homes selling like hotcakes to the wealthy, “empty-nesters” downsizing, investors, and foreign buyers. A recent report by Goldman Sachs estimates that nationwide, homes purchased with all cash account for more than half of all sales in both number and dollar volume. In the San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont area, for example, roughly 30 percent of homes were purchased with all cash in the first quarter of this year alone. Because sellers love the simplicity and speed of cash transactions, this means that in California,…
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National Mortgage Settlement: Pennies on the Dollar for Distressed Consumers

National Mortgage Settlement: Pennies on the Dollar for Distressed Consumers

Homeowners who were foreclosed on between 2008 and 2011 have recently started receiving their checks from the National Mortgage Settlement. Unfortunately, these checks will do very little to soothe the financial pain of these households, which were much more likely to be households of color. That’s because the checks are approximately $1,480 according to the official settlement website . That won’t even begin to repair the damage done to those who lost their homes during the housing crisis and were forced to find other places to live. Frankly, the amount is so small it seems to be more of an insult to the victims of the housing crisis than anything…
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Voter Suppression – It Just Gets Worse

Voter Suppression – It Just Gets Worse

Here in California, we live in a bit of a bubble. While our system isn’t perfect by any means – the ballot initiative process, for example, is too dominated by wealthy special interests and not sufficiently open to ordinary citizens, especially those whose English is less than perfect – the right to vote is relatively secure here.  Voters in other states aren’t so lucky. Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow did a blistering segment on North Carolina’s latest push to suppress voting by poor and minority residents. The newest wrinkle is particularly disturbing: what seems like a deliberate push to make it nearly impossible for students at historically black colleges…
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Designing Paths to Success for Filipino-American Youth

Designing Paths to Success for Filipino-American Youth

A few months ago, two of my friends pitched a project to me that turned out really exciting. We wanted to address the lack of resources and guidance that Filipino-American youth and young professionals have access to in navigating their career paths. I felt a strong personal connection with this issue: Being a first-generation college student, I never really knew what the next steps were after graduating from college. I knew that I had to get a job, but the process of getting one was never really clear to me. As an immigrant and manual laborer, my Dad couldn’t offer me much advice regarding my career interests. Instead, I had…
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