Monday, June 11, 2007

The Poverty Business. No. 469.

The Poverty Business [BusinessWeek].
Inside U.S. companies' audacious drive to extract more profits from the nation's working poor.

The Vile Business Of Preying On the Poor, an essay by Froma Harrop, notes:
Corporate America has decided there's gold in draining the low-income masses of what little they have. Loan sharks and con artists once dominated this territory, but big businesses have moved in and are proving to be far smoother than the mugs who break legs. Their legal fine print can trap the uneducated in outrageous debt contracts without rousing the authorities.

The Economics of the Poverty Business
Researchers are digging deeper to learn more about the high cost of being poor, and its impact on the overall economy.

• A new study by The Brookings Institution in Washington uses Federal Reserve data and an analysis of more than 12 million credit reports to illustrate how the supply of credit in lower-income markets has dramatically increased in recent decades. The effect: rising indebtedness among lower-income households, and a growing struggle among those borrowers to pay bills.
• A 2006 study by Brookings documents the higher costs paid by lower-income families across a broad range of goods and services—from auto insurance to appliances. The report argues that reducing the cost of living for lower-income families by 1% could add $6.5 billion in new spending power to the economy.
• In The State of Working America, 2006/2007, researchers from The Economic Policy Institute in Washington present an exhaustive analysis of the nation's working families. Among the study's key findings: stagnant wages among lower-income workers despite rising productivity, growing income inequality, and less upward mobility for workers on the bottom rungs of the economy.

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