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Weekend Link Roundup (September 6-7, 2008)

September 07, 2008

As Robert Thalhimer points out on PhilanthroMedia, Labor Day marks the beginning of a new year for most. "School is back in session. The pace at work [picks] up. Social engagements...abound." And on the philanthropic front, "charitable giving comes into center focus due to the upcoming end of the tax year." With the economy stumbling, the presidential contest heating up, and dangerous Hurricane Ike rumbling toward a landfall along the Gulf Coast later this week, we take a look at some of the best philanthropy-related posts from the week just passed.


A new report from the Census Bureau suggests that personal income rose while the number of people living in poverty fell in 2007, even as middle-income households struggled to make up ground lost in the last recession (2001-02). That's unprecedented by historical standards, writes Ruy Teixeria, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Indeed, a recent Pew Research Center poll found that large segments of the public reported having difficulty affording various essentials of daily life:

Thirty-eight percent said it was difficult or very difficult to afford food; 46 percent said it was difficult or very difficult to afford health care; 49 percent reported problems affording home heating and electric bills; and 68 percent said the same about affording gasoline….

Unfortunately, says Teixera, stats like those reveal the truth behind the Bush administration's attempt "to put a happy face on its dismal economic record...."

Writing in the New York Times ("Rich Man's Burden," Sept. 2, 2008), Dalton Conley, chairman of the sociology department at New York University, argues that we have arrived at "a stunning moment in economic history": For the first time since people have tracked such things, higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do. Indeed, since 1980,

the number of men in the bottom fifth of the income ladder who work long hours (over 49 hours per week) has dropped by half, according to a study by the economists Peter Kuhn and Fernando Lozano. But among the top fifth of earners, long weeks have increased by 80 percent....

Conley places some of the blame for the widening gap on what he calls an "economic red shift":

Like the shift in the light spectrum caused by the galaxies rushing away, those Americans who are in the top half of the income distribution experience a sensation that, while they may be pulling away from the bottom half, they are also being left further and further behind by those just above them.

And since inequality rises exponentially the higher you climb the economic ladder, the better off you are in absolute terms, the more relatively deprived you may feel. In fact, a poll of New Yorkers found that those who earned more than $200,000 a year were the most likely of any income group to agree that “seeing other people with money” makes them feel poor....

And so they work...and work...and work...


Noting that large urban school districts increasingly are trying out innovative policies and practices for which there is little or no pre-existing research support -- things like issuing school report cards, conducting school quality reviews, and offering incentives in the form of cash and cellphones to students in exchange for meeting academic performance targets --Skoolboy throws down the gauntlet on the Eduwonkette blog: "If we're serious about data-driven decision-making, we should put our money where our mouth is and demonstrate the relative effectiveness of class-size reduction and other policy initiatives...."

Then again, given that only seven in ten students successfully finish high school and that graduation rates are even lower in urban school districts and among racial and ethnic minorities and males, offering financial incentives to high school students as a way to keep them from dropping may not be such a bad idea. That's one of the conclusions of Cities in Crisis, a new report issued by the EPE Research Center, with support from America's Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Knowledge is power, the report notes, and if we are to provide every student in America with a high-quality education (and what could be more important?), it's essential that we not lose sight of the gaping disparities that exist within the nation's public education system.


Allison Fine has a good post on eBay's new global marketplace, WorldofGood.com. "The site creates a global marketplace for goods and foods that are certified as 'friendly' and 'green' according to a rating system called Trustology," she writes. "Is it too narrow-minded to think that American and European artists could also benefit from [such a] marketplace?" We think not.


Beth Kanter predicts that in the future "social media will become as ubiquitous to development offices as is the phone, direct mail, and email." Even with new tools being launched daily, this "will take many years," she adds, "but…fundraising with social media tools will not just be a niche source of income or novelty."


Donation Dashboard, a new site that uses a collaborative filtering algorithm to customize your online charitable giving, represents "a significant moment in the evolution of philanthropy markets," writes Lucy Bernolz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog.


Like Ruy Teixeria (see above, Economy), Beverly Goldberg, senior fellow and editor-at-large at the Century Foundation, takes a close look on the Taking Note blog at the recently released Census Bureau report. In her post, Goldberg notes that the "ratio of earnings of women who worked full time, year-round was 78 percent of that for corresponding men." And that, she adds, has obvious implications for American families:

Women earning less than men…means they cannot save as much; if they contribute to pension plans at the same rate as men, they are contributing less because the pay their contributions are based on is less; they receive smaller Social Security checks because they earn less while they work and they often have to leave the workforce for periods of time to take care of dependents; and they live longer so what they manage to accumulate has to be spread over more years....

And Fortune Online has a nice post by guest contributor Jennifer Buffett, co-chair of the NoVo Foundation, which she and her husband, Peter Buffett (Warren's son), established in 2000. It wasn't until 2007, however, that the Buffetts had what she calls their "Aha! moment." The result? "We landed not on one or two interventions but on an entire demographic: a group that comprises 51% of the world's population and affects everyone — WOMEN AND GIRLS." She continues:

Women and girls are grossly under-funded…Women receive less than 10% of agricultural assistance, yet they produce nearly 80% of the world’s food. Adolescent girls in the developing world receive only half a penny of every development dollar. We came to realize that…[i]f we invested in girls and women specifically — to help them acquire marketable skills and education, maintain their health and delay marriage — their children would reap the benefits....

"Women," Buffett concludes "are the caring stewards of future generations. Through the NoVo foundation, we're investing with a passionate understanding of that truth." And we're thankful they are.

That's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow with more.

-- Regina Mahone and Mitch Nauffts

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