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April 20, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Regional population growth sees decline

New census figures indicate that population growth (excluding births) in the Washington region is slowing down dramatically. Federal spending cuts and suburban decline are among a number of possible causes for the slow down in migration to the area. (WaPo, 4/16)

After decades of expansion, new census numbers show that population growth in the Washington region has slowed dramatically, with Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria seeing more people move out of those communities than move in over the past year.


Even in the District, a city of about 650,000 residents where condos are popping up across the skyline and newly fashionable neighborhoods are quickly becoming unaffordable for longtime residents, net migration went down last year — from about 10,000 in 2013 to half that.

AARP has released a new online tool that ranks U.S. neighborhoods on their livability for older Americans. The tool weighs a number of significant factors to determine the probability of  successfully aging-in-place on a scale of 0-100. (WaPo, 4/20)

– Do the unfortunate realities of inequality suddenly dissolve when one becomes a senior citizen and experiences the same changes a person from any economic background would – less dependence, lack of mobility, inability to work? Sadly, no. The Atlantic takes a look at how disparities often persist for many Americans throughout a lifetime. (Atlantic, 4/20)

MARYLAND/TRANSIT | A new report estimates the economic benefits for Maryland suburbs if the Purple Line project is given the go ahead. (WaPo, 4/20)

INEQUALITY | This chart explains everything you need to know about inequality (WaPo, 4/20)

– With exorbitant prices for often low-quality land for agricultural use, many farmers in the District are looking toward new legislation to make urban agricultural growth easier and more economical. (WAMU, 4/17)

Opinion:  Many celebrities and public figures have signed on to participate in food stamp challenges in recent years. One writer questions if a recent challenge gone wrong has actually done more harm than good in raising the awareness of the plight of poverty. (WaPo, 4/18)

Wait a minute…is that Yoda in that 14th century manuscript?

– Ciara

April 17, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Friday roundup – April 13 through April 17, 2015

– This week, we heard from leading fiscal policy experts on the 2016 federal, District, and Virginia budgets and what priorities they may bring to the forefront for funders in the region. We’ll hear more on Maryland’s budget soon. In the meantime, you can get caught up on on the posts from Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michael Cassidy of The Commonwealth Institute, and Ed Lazere of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. (Daily, 4/13, 4/14, and 4/15)

– Foundation Center and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement released a new report analyzing U.S. foundation funding for organizations and programs focused on improving the life outcomes of black men and boys. (BMAfunders, 4/14)

– The D.C. Council introduced a resolution to strengthen the city’s Inclusionary Zoning program in an effort to increase the stock of long-term affordable housing. (Coalition for Smarter Growth, 4/14)

– The Commonwealth Institute examined the role unauthorized immigrants can play in Virginia’s economy. (Commonwealth Institute, 4/16)

– D.C. Area’s Safety Net For Immigrant Children Is Stretched Thin, Report Says (WAMU, 4/14)

– According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arlington County was found to be one of only 10 counties in the U.S that had declining numbers of diabetes cases between the years 2004 and 2012. (WaPo, 4/13)

Childhood trauma may raise risk of type 1 diabetes (Reuters, 4/15)

The Fundamentals of CSR: A Two Day-Workshop
Thursday, April 23, 2015 – Friday, April 24, 2015

Washington Regional Food Funders: Second Quarterly Meeting (Interested WRAG members should contact Lindsay Smith for an agenda and to RSVP if they haven’t already done so)
Thursday, April 23, 2015   10:00 AM – 12:00 PM


How can you tell if your dog really loves you? It’s all in the gaze.

– Ciara

April 16, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

New study links brain structure and level of affluence

More and more students in the U.S. public school system are coming from low-income families and the achievement gap among poor and more affluent students continues to widen. A recent first-of-its-kind study suggests that youth from low-income families also have smaller brains than youth from affluent families. Though the study produced some alarming findings, researchers are not quite sure why there are differences in size. (WaPo, 4/15)

Neuroscientists who studied the brain scans of nearly 1,100 children and young adults nationwide from ages 3 to 20 found that the surface area of the cerebral cortex was linked to family income. They discovered that the brains of children in families that earned less than $25,000 a year had surface areas 6 percent smaller than those whose families earned $150,000 or more. The poor children also scored lower on average on a battery of cognitive tests.

The region of the brain in question handles language, memory, spatial skills and reasoning, all important to success in school and beyond.


The new research does not explain possible reasons for the brain differences. And that has created concern that the findings will harden stereotypes and give an impression that children who are born into poverty lack the physical capacity to succeed academically.

“Some people feel if you show these brain differences, you’re politically condemning the poor,” [neuroscientist from a similiar study, John] Gabrieli said. “Which is the opposite, I think, of what we need to do. I think we want to understand adversity and minimize adversity.”

IMMIGRATION/VIRGINIA | The Commonwealth Institute takes a look at some of the important data behind the benefits unauthorized immigrants can bring to a community’s economy, with particular attention to how protecting immigrants who pay state and local taxes in Virginia could provide a boost. (Commonwealth Institute, 4/16)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | A report from the office of the D.C. Chief Financial Officer finds that nearly one in five houses in the city costs more than $1 million. As for the D.C. rental market – although the vacancy rate is expected to rise over the next few years, rents are also expected to continue to rise annually. (WCP, 4/14)

WORKFORCE | About 17 percent of the American labor force works in jobs that use on-call scheduling practices. Inconsistent work schedules, however, can prove to be very challenging for those trying to organize their everyday lives and make a livable wage. (Atlantic, 4/15)

Employees can wind up spending time, and money, commuting to their job, only to be told to leave early, or that they’re not needed at all that day. A sudden call to work can mean scrambling for child care, or turning down much-needed hours. And a constantly shifting schedule can lead to uneven earnings, with income spiking in some months and plummeting in others, making it incredibly difficult to budget. For students using part-time jobs to make ends meet, schedule changes can mean making a choice between attending class and earning enough money to pay tuition. For workers with kids, it can mean a constant struggle to find and afford child care. The problem is bigger than mere inconvenience.

Working, but Needing Public Assistance Anyway (NYT, 4/12)

EVENTS | The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Grant Writing USA will hold a two-day grants workshop June 1-2. The training will be held for grant seekers across all disciplines who want to learn how to find grants and write winning proposals. For more information, click here.

ENVIRONMENT | D.C. and Arlington, VA came in at number two and three, respectively, in a list of America’s 10 Greenest Cities. (Forbes, 4/15)

FOOD | States Tighten Food-Stamps Rules as Economy Recovers (Chronicle, 4/14)

The Washington Wizards have a brand new logo.

– Ciara


April 15, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

A “favored quarter” for jobs in the region

A new report by the Brookings Institution looks at the concentration of jobs within proximity to residents across the country and in the region. Job opportunities were found to be much more concentrated in a particular area, leaving those outside of it with far fewer options and potentially long-lasting consequences because of it (GGW, 4/14):

Jobs in the DC region are heavily concentrated in a “favored quarter” that starts downtown and stretches west-northwest. Residents in the ten-mile-wide circle that covers the northwest quadrant of DC, Arlington, and neighboring parts of Montgomery and Fairfax counties, can easily commute to about a million jobs.

For people in that area, chances are pretty good that one of those jobs will suit them.


Outside of the Beltway, the lack of job opportunity in Prince George’s and eastern Montgomery counties has depressed property values and ruined many families’ finances.

All of this leads to what social scientists call a “spatial mismatch” between jobs and affordable housing. Over time, a spatial mismatch can widen into what sociologist Robert Putnam calls an opportunity equality gap, disadvantaging families for multiple generations.

Related: A while back, WRAG published What Funders Need to Know: Does Housing + Transportation Costs = Affordable Living?, which looks at some of these issues in our region.

BUDGETS/DISTRICT | This week, we’re bringing you commentary from fiscal policy experts on the recently-released FY 2016 federal and state budgets for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. This time we have Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, discussing Mayor Bowser’s budget for 2016. (Daily, 4/14)

WORKFORCE |  Campaign to begin for a $15 minimum wage in D.C. (WaPo, 4/15)

– The New Communities Initiative, aimed at reviving distressed subsidized housing into mixed-income housing, has met a number of hurdles over the years. One of the projects appears to be gaining some traction with a proposal to build more low-income units, but many residents are concerned that the development would completely miss the mark on creating a more economically diverse community. (WCP, 4/14)

– The D.C. Council recently introduced a resolution to strengthen the city’s Inclusionary Zoning program in order to increase the stock of long-term affordable housing. (Coalition for Smarter Growth, 4/14)

– In a new study, the Urban Institute examines the growing economic divide among District residents in the city’s 179 neighborhoods. Since 1990, “challenged” neighborhoods – those where the unemployment rate, share of residents without a high school degree, and share of households headed by a single mother exceed the citywide average by at least 20 percent – were increasingly found to be clustered east of the river. (WCP, 4/14)

– It’s Tax Day! The Atlantic takes a look at the Earned Income Tax Credit’s (EITC) emotional and psychological benefits for many low-income Americans who get a rare opportunity to have extra money to spend around this time. (Atlantic, 4/14)

[…] the EITC can also lead to something more significant than money this tax season—a feeling of social inclusion and citizenship that might otherwise elude them. According to a new study, people who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides bigger refunds to low-income workers with children, are, for a time, privy to the optimism of the American dream, a sharp contrast to the feelings of stigmatization associated with receiving government benefits.

Where the poor and rich really spend their money (WaPo, 4/14)

EDUCATION | What Drives Public School Demand? Location, Location, Location. (WCP, 4/15)

Can you solve this math problem

– Ciara

April 15, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

What you need to know: A look at Mayor Bowser’s 2016 District budget

*Editor’s Note: This week, The Daily WRAG is excited to bring you commentary on the recently released 2016 federal and state budgets from leading fiscal policy experts. What issues should you be concerned about in your jurisdiction? How might the proposed budgets affect your grantmaking priorities? Check in this week for an overview of the federal, District, Maryland, and Virginia budgets, and their implications for some of the most pressing social issues affecting our region.

Next up, Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, shares his take on Mayor Bowser’s first budget:

by Ed Lazere
DC Fiscal Policy Institute

Mayor Bowser’s first budget invests heavily in affordable housing, in efforts to address rising homelessness and to protect thousands of families with children from losing basic income support. She accomplished this despite facing a shortfall between revenues and the costs of maintaining city services. To fund these important investments while still balancing the budget, the mayor proposed a number of reductions and modest tax increases, including a sales tax change that will add 25 cents to a $100 purchase.

  • Building Affordable Housing: Mayor Bowser committed $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund to build and renovate housing. This doubles the Trust Fund’s resources.
  • Helping More Families Pay Rent: The budget expands rental assistance (D.C.’s Local Rent Supplement Program) to make 200 homes affordable to very low-income households and to aid families needing help after short term “rapid rehousing” subsidies end.
  • Protecting Families with Children: Mayor Bowser extended income and employment assistance for one year to 6,000 families facing the loss of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. This will prevent 13,000 children from falling deeper into poverty and will give the mayor’s new human services leadership a year to address a TANF program that has not always served families well.

Despite these gains, large gaps remain to creating “pathways to the middle class,” Mayor Bowser’s stated goal. While the budget provides a record level to build affordable housing, it offers a much more modest increase to help families pay rent, yet rental assistance is key to making housing affordable to very low-income families. In addition, a one-year plan to keep families from being cut off the TANF welfare-to-work program gives time to repair a flawed system, but leaves vulnerable families with too little to make ends meet – $156 a month for a family of three.

Here are areas the DC Council should prioritize as it considers adding resources to the mayor’s spending plan.

  • Add Support to Families with Children on TANF: TANF should provide financial stability while helping parents move to greater self-sufficiency. Even with the extension of benefits for a year, the very low levels of assistance do not support family stability.
  • Expand Rental Assistance: There is virtually no affordable private-market housing in the District, which means that families with low wages or living on fixed incomes will struggle with housing cost burdens without additional assistance. Expanding rental assistance is a way to create affordable housing quickly and for the lowest-income families.
  • Increase Resources for At-Risk Students: The current funding devoted to helping low-income and other at-risk students in DCPS and public charter schools is well below the level recommended by a D.C.-commissioned study. Increasing the “at-risk weight” would allow high-poverty schools to take the steps needed to help low-income students succeed.

You can check DCFPI’s full take here for the key changes in Mayor Bowser’s budget.

Ed Lazere, the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, has led the organization since its inception in 2001. Under his leadership, DCFPI has become the primary source of independent information on the DC budget and one of the most influential policy organizations focused on the District. Mr. Lazere is recognized as a leading expert on the District’s budget and tax system, and he is looked to as a resource on a number of policy issues such as affordable housing and welfare-to-work programs.

April 14, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

The impact of the gender wage gap in the region

Today is Equal Pay Day – a day dedicated to drawing attention to the gender pay gap. The Washington Area Women’s Foundation breaks down the wage gap and it’s effect on women in our region with a new fact sheet. You can also join in on the conversation about the issue on social media using the hashtags #EqualPayDay and #EqualPayNow.

More than ever, families rely on women’s earnings to make ends meet. In the Washington region, 72 percent of mothers with young children participate in the workforce and, nationwide, 40 percent of mothers are either the sole or primary breadwinner in their households. Equal pay would reduce poverty levels among women, and would increase every woman’s ability to provide for herself and her family.


In jurisdictions where earnings are low across the board, such as in Prince George’s County, the gender gap narrows or even disappears. However, in jurisdictions with a higher concentration of high-paying occupations, such as in the city of Alexandria, the gap widens. Men are more likely to take these jobs, and women – with highly-paid partners – are more likely to take jobs that offer more flexibility in lieu of higher earnings, skewing the gap.

– A report estimates which year women may see equal pay with their male counterparts across the country and within each state. Nationally, it may not be until 2058. Locally, Maryland leads the way with estimated equal pay by the year 2042. (WaPo, 3/16)

BUDGETS/VIRGINIA | This week, we’re bringing you commentary from fiscal policy experts on the recently-released FY 2016 federal and state budgets for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Today we have Michael Cassidy, president of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Policy Analysis, with his take on how the 2016 federal budget may affect Virginia’s. (Daily, 4/14)

IMMIGRATION | D.C. Area’s Safety Net For Immigrant Children Is Stretched Thin, Report Says (WAMU, 4/14)

RACIAL EQUITY | A new report released by Foundation Center and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement reveals a trend toward increased U.S. foundation funding for organizations and programs focused on improving the life outcomes of black males. The report, Quantifying Hope: Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys, also shows the share of support certain issue areas receive.

YOUTH/MENTAL HEALTH | The Children’s Law Center has released a new report on the District’s progress in meeting the needs of the estimated 13,000-20,000 children in the city with depression, trauma, schizophrenia, or other mental health concerns. The report finds that the city has made some strides in treating more youth, but shows great need for improvement in a number of other areas. (WaPo, 4/13) You can access the full report here.

Montgomery County’s Office of Economic Development has teamed up with D.C. tech incubator 1776 to develop startup technology for public projects based on the county’s needs. (WBJ, 4/13)

Arlington Confident Despite Dubious Economic Indicators (ARLnow, 4/14)

This is worthy of one big, collective eye roll.

– Ciara

April 14, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

What you need to know: Virginia’s 2016 budget in the wake of proposed federal cuts

*Editor’s Note: This week, The Daily WRAG is excited to bring you commentary on the recently released 2016 federal and state budgets from leading fiscal policy experts. What issues should you be concerned about in your jurisdiction? How might the proposed budgets affect your grantmaking priorities? Check in this week for an overview of the federal, District, Maryland and Virginia budgets and their implications for some of the most pressing social issues affecting our region.

Today, Michael Cassidy, president of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, gives us his thoughts on how the U.S. House and Senate budget proposals may affect Virginia:

by Michael Cassidy
The Commonwealth Institute

Further cuts to federal investments in public services, as proposed in both the House and Senate budget plans, will hurt our local economy and do so on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable. That’s because Virginia relies heavily on federal help to meet the needs of our communities and our people:

  • Despite the bright spots in the national economy, Virginia has still not fully recovered from the recession and earlier federal budget cuts. The number of unemployed Virginians is still 70 percent above where we were eight years ago, and more Virginians still need help meeting their basic needs. In February, more than 856,000 people relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help put food on the table. That’s a 67 percent increase since the same month in 2007.
  • As Virginia’s economy regains its footing, federal assistance is vital.  For example, the state is expected to receive $102 million in 2016 to help women and infants get the nutrition they need. Likewise, federal funds will help us support struggling communities and provide affordable housing for low-income families: through $430 million in housing vouchers and an additional $50 million community development block grant.
  • Our schools rely heavily on federal funding, too, especially to make up for recent state cuts. In 2016 our school divisions are expected to receive almost $261 million to help students in poverty get ready for college and careers, and $285 million to help teach students with disabilities.

Under either the House or the Senate budget plans, all of these services could face deep cuts.

What’s more, these two plans would put health care out of reach for hundreds of thousands of Virginians by eliminating the tax credits available through the federal marketplace for private insurance, as well as cutting Medicaid and changing the way it’s funded. Removing the tax subsidies alone would threaten health care for the 319,000 Virginians who have gained coverage through the federal marketplace this year. On top of that, the proposed changes to  Medicaid would inevitably result in less funding and fewer people receiving coverage.

Given the state budget landscape, there’s little hope that Virginia’s General Assembly would make up the difference in the wake of federal cuts. The state just had to fill a $2.4 billion shortfall last fall and relied heavily on budget gimmicks and deep cuts to do it.

With families still struggling across Virginia and the state unwilling to invest in the things that we know strengthen the economy, we cannot bear further cuts at the federal level. At a time when Virginia’s families need Congress to continue making strong investments in education, health care, and family supports like nutrition and housing, the House and the Senate budget plans would do great damage to the commonwealth.

Michael Cassidy is the president and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a nonprofit think tank focused on providing independent research, analysis and public education on budget and tax issues, with emphasis on the impact of fiscal decisions on low- and moderate-income Virginians. He also worked for several years as a budget analyst at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget where he handled policy development, regulatory and legislative review and budgetary process and execution for a wide variety of social policy programs.

April 13, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Aging in place proves difficult when places need fixing

Despite being accepted into a program that rehabilitates the homes of low-income seniors in the District, many who prefer to age-in-place find remaining in their homes difficult as older buildings are falling apart around them. The program out of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development has left some feeling neglected. (WaPo, 4/12)

The program can mean fixing leaky roofs, upgrading wiring or installing wheelchair ramps, chair lifts or bathroom fixtures. Homeowners 62 and older can have the first $10,000 of a loan forgiven. Advocates point out that for some low-income residents, the program is more cost-efficient than moving to a retirement home, where expenses are often borne by taxpayers through Medicaid or other programs.

Yet, only a tiny portion of the program’s allocated budget was used last year. The D.C. Council, citing the program’s importance, has increased its budget tenfold to $8 million. The program used only $800,000.

BUDGETS | This week, we’ll bring you commentary from fiscal policy experts on the recently-released FY 2016 federal and state budgets for D.C., Virginia (and soon, Maryland). Today, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, gives his analysis of the 2016 federal budget. (WaPo, 4/13 and Daily, 4/13)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | Fight Over Barry Farm Highlights Fears About Public Housing Redevelopment (WAMU, 4/10)

HEALTH | The growing prevalence of diabetes diagnoses across the U.S. has reached alarming levels. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arlington County is one of only 10 counties in the country that had a decrease in diabetes cases between the years 2004 and 2012. (WaPo, 4/13)

– The Center for Effective Philanthropy has released a new report on the ways in which nonprofits assess performance and what they need from funders to support those endeavors. (CEP, 4/2015)

How Family Foundations Can Pass on the Philanthropy Flame to the Next Generation (WSJ, 4/12)

HOMELESSNESS | D.C. Claims Huge Progress Moving Families Into Housing (WCP, 4/10)

– Many schools in the District are shown to have inadequate libraries, particularly charter schools. In a pilot program, some public schools are partnering with D.C. Public Libraries to increase access to books for District children. (WaPo, 4/12)

– The District is focusing in on expanding the quality of childcare for children from low-income families in the pivotal developmental years before the age of three. (GGW, 4/9)

What if people spoke to each other in real life like they do in emails?

– Ciara

April 13, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

What you need to know: The 2016 federal budget

*Editor’s Note: This week, The Daily WRAG is excited to bring you commentary on the recently released 2016 federal and state budgets from leading fiscal policy experts. What issues should you be concerned about in your jurisdiction? How might the proposed budgets affect your grantmaking priorities? Check in this week for an overview of the federal, District, Maryland and Virginia budgets and their implications for some of the most pressing social issues affecting our region. Don’t worry – Maryland’s state budget should hopefully be completed soon. When that happens, we’ll have you covered.

First up, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, offers his analysis of the 2016 federal budget:

by Robert Greenstein
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The budgets that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed in late March would shrink federal spending to strikingly low levels that, measured as a share of the U.S. economy, are unprecedented in modern America.  These cuts would seriously affect the ability of states and localities to deliver adequately in areas such as educating children and increasing opportunities for disadvantaged people.  Congress’ new budget plans would:

  • Repeal health reform and cut Medicaid deeply on top of that. The plans would radically restructure Medicaid by converting it to a block grant and cutting federal funding steeply. The Medicaid cut in the House plan, including its repeal of health reform’s Medicaid expansion, would reach $1.8 trillion over ten years relative to current law, adding tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.  Federal spending for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2025 would be a third less than what states would receive under current law, and the cuts likely would keep growing after that.
  • Deeply cut other federal funding for state priorities. Federal policymakers already have substantially cut the part of the budget that includes support for schools and a wide range of human services (such as nutrition assistance for new mothers and young children, job training, housing assistance, and child care), along with transportation, medical and scientific research, and other programs. Funding for this part of the federal budget — known as non-defense discretionary funding — is set to fall under current law to the lowest levels on record, measured as a share of the economy, with data going back to the 1960s.  Yet the House and Senate budgets would cut funding further for this part of the budget.  Many of these programs are important to increasing opportunity, productivity, and long-term economic growth.

States are not in a position to absorb major new cost shifts from the federal government.  State revenues were seriously damaged by the recent recession, the worst for state finances in 70 years.  While revenues are slowly recovering, they remain in a hole, often well below what is needed to meet state needs.  For instance, school districts nationally employ 285,000 fewer workers than in the fall of 2008, the first full school year after the recession started, even as the number of students has risen by about 485,000.

Congressional budget plans aren’t laws.  Rather, they establish a framework for subsequent legislation.  With government remaining divided in Washington, much of what is in the House and Senate budgets won’t become law this year, as gridlock will likely continue.  But some aspects of these budgets could be seriously considered — if not now, possibly in 2017.  And in any event, continuing gridlock and eroding federal investments in areas important to promoting opportunity pose major problems by themselves, including problems for states and localities.

Robert Greenstein is the founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  He is considered an expert on the federal budget and a range of domestic policy issues, from anti-poverty programs and various aspects of tax policy to health reform and Social Security.  He has written numerous reports, analyses, book chapters, op-ed pieces, and magazine articles on these issues. 

April 10, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

The U.S. spends more, gets less

There’s lots of news to share, so here’s your regular Daily WRAG edition instead of the Friday roundup. Happy Friday!

Government programs that support the poor are often subject to heavy criticism and are considered a wasteful burden. A new study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics , however, points to tax breaks as the real culprit of wasteful spending in the American system (WaPo, 4/9):

Witness the recent outrage over welfare recipients eating steak, visiting swimming pools, and driving a Mercedes while receiving public funds. But a new study argues that the real waste in the American system comes not from welfare programs like food stamps, but from widespread tax breaks that subsidize spending on things like health care and housing.

Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Peterson Institute for International Economics, argues in a new report that once you take these kinds of tax breaks into account, the U.S. actually devotes far more resources than many other countries to “social spending” — spending on pensions, health care, family support, unemployment, housing assistance, and similar benefits meant to help people out in hard times. And, compared with most advanced countries, the U.S. gets far less bang for its buck in terms of health outcomes and equality.

HEALTH | Mayor Muriel Bowser is set to launch a new health and fitness initiative for District residents that will link them to nutrition and physical fitness resources in an effort to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce chronic diseases. (DCist, 4/9)

RACIAL EQUITY | The Atlantic takes a close look at America’s cities with high rates of racially concentrated areas of affluence (RCAAs), and the problematic way public policy has worked to address poverty. (Atlantic, 4/10)

GENDER EQUITY | Opinion: In the fight for gender equality, many have called for more support from men to further push for change. Four male Maryland legislators have become pioneers by becoming the first men to join the Women Legislators of Maryland – something that has never been done anywhere else in the country. (WaPo, 4/9)

ENVIRONMENT | The Troublesome Connection Between City Trees and Income Inequality (CityLab, 4/9)

FOOD | Schools becoming the ‘last frontier’ for hungry kids (USA Today, 4/5)

INEQUALITY | Opinion: According to the Social Progress Index for 2015, the United States ranks 16th overall. But in a country that constantly touts itself as “number 1,” have we become far too complacent to earn that distinction? (NYT, 4/9)

How well do you know the District’s systems? Take this quiz and find out.

– Ciara



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