Category Archives: Youth

Poor teens go hungry as younger sibs are fed


From Johns Hopkins University, an alarming finger about hunger and poverty in the United States:

In very poor families, teenagers are going hungry twice as often as their younger siblings, a new Johns Hopkins University study finds.

Parents first forgo food themselves, skipping meals to feed their children. But if there still isn’t enough for everyone, the study found parents will feed younger children before teenagers, regularly leaving the older kids—teen boys in particular—without enough to eat.

“If you’re really poor, you try to sacrifice yourself first, but when you’re forced to make some choices, these parents are deciding to let the teens not have enough—if they have to give up on something, they’re giving up on teenagers,” said JHU economist Robert Moffitt, the lead author. “It’s hard to imagine parents having to do that.”

The study, which is the first to demonstrate how children’s food deprivation can differ by age and gender, even within the same household, is published as a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research [$5 to read].

Moffitt and co-author David C. Ribar of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research analyzed a survey of about 1,500 extremely disadvantaged families in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. The survey asked parents, along with one of their children, about missing meals, checking in with them several times over six years, from 1999 to 2005.

The families had incomes well below the federal poverty line, making an average of about $1,558 a month, or $18,696 a year. Most were headed by single parents, unemployed, on welfare, and not college-educated. Most were minorities and raising children in rental homes.

Questions for the parents included:

  • At any time in the past 12 months, did you or other adults in your household cut the size of your meals or skip meals because there wasn’t enough money for food?
  • At any time in the past 12 months, did you or any other adults in your household not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food?
  • In the past 12 months, were you ever hungry but didn’t eat because you couldn’t afford food?
  • Sometimes people lose weight because they don’t have enough to eat. In the past 12 months, did you lose weight because there wasn’t enough food?

In these disadvantaged families, researchers found 12 percent of the adults suffered from extreme food hardship, answering “yes” to several of these questions. At the same time, about 4 percent of the children went hungry.

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Chart of the day: High schoolers shunning soda


From a new report on beverage choices by America’s high school-age youth from the Centers for Disease Control, a look at the fast-changing demographics of carbonated beverage consumption. Students were asked if they had consumed a soda within the last 24 hours, yielding these results:

During 2007–2015, daily soda consumption decreased from 33.8%  to  20.4%.  During 2007–2011, daily milk and juice consumption did not change; however,  during  2011–2015 daily milk and juice consumption decreased from 44.4% to 37.5% and from 28.2% to 21.6%, respectively.

During 2007–2015, daily soda consumption decreased from 33.8% to 20.4%. During 2007–2011, daily milk and juice consumption did not change; however, during 2011–2015 daily milk and juice consumption decreased from 44.4% to 37.5% and from 28.2% to 21.6%, respectively.

School shootings link to high unemployment rates


Two charts from the report [open access] featuring [top] the monthly number of shooting events categorized based on number of fatalities [green 0–1, orange 2–5 and red >5] and [below], national unemployment rate peaks [black line] and how they qualitatively align with periods of elevated rates of school shootings [blue bars].

Two charts from the report [open access] featuring [top] the monthly number of shooting events categorized based on number of fatalities [green 0–1, orange 2–5 and red >5] and [below], national unemployment rate peaks [black line] and how they qualitatively align with periods of elevated rates of school shootings [blue bars].

While there are other facts at work in individual cases, ranging from psychopathology and poor home relationships to immediate provocations, could high jobless rates play a key role in America’s school shootings?

That’s the conclusion of a just-published major study from Northwestern University:

A rigorous Northwestern University study of a quarter-century of data has found that economic insecurity is related to the rate of gun violence at K-12 and postsecondary schools in the United States. When it becomes more difficult for people coming out of school to find jobs, the rate of gun violence at schools increases.

The interdisciplinary study by data scientists Adam R. Pah and Luís Amaral and sociologist John L. Hagan reveals a persistent connection over time between unemployment and the occurrence of school shootings in the country as a whole, across various regions of the country and within affected cities, including Chicago and New York City.

“The link between education and work is central to our expectations about economic opportunity and upward mobility in America,” said Hagan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Sociology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “Our study indicates that increases in gun violence in our schools can result from disappointment and despair during periods of increased unemployment, when getting an education does not necessarily lead to finding work.”

Frequent school shootings have been a major concern in American society for decades, but the causes have defied understanding. The Northwestern researchers used data from 1990 to 2013 on both gun violence in U.S. schools and economic metrics, including unemployment, to get some answers.

“Our findings highlight the importance of economic opportunity for the next generation and suggest there are proactive actions we could take as a society to help decrease the frequency of gun violence,” said Pah, clinical assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management.

Other key findings include:

  • While Chicago is singled out in the study as one of the six cities with the most incidents from 1990 to 2013, Chicago schools are not any more dangerous than schools in other large cities.
  • Gun violence at schools has not become more deadly over time.
  • Most shootings are targeted, with the shooter intending to harm a specific person.
  • Gang-related violence and lone mass shooters comprise only small fractions of the gun violence that occurs at U.S. schools. Gang-related violence constitutes 6.6% of all incidents.
  • The results suggest that during periods of heightened unemployment, increased gun violence may be a growing risk in American college and university settings.

The study, Economic Insecurity and the Rise in Gun Violence at US Schools, [open access] was published Monday by the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

The research team also found the rate of gun violence at schools has changed over time. The most recent period studied (2007-2013) has a higher frequency of incidents than the preceding one (1994-2007), contradicting previous work in this area. This is a unique contribution made possible because of the researchers’ backgrounds in data science and modeling.

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Death dominates lives of young African Americans


We’ve long known that life expectancies of black Americans are significantly shorter than those of white Americans, as summarized in this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Life expectancy, by race: United States, 1970–2010

Life expectancy, by race: United States, 1970–2010

But there’s another set of deaths rates given, until now,  little attention.

And these numbers carry profound and multifold impacts, the loss experienced by children as parents and other close family members die.

From the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin:

African-Americans are more likely than whites to experience the loss of a parent during childhood and more likely to be exposed to multiple family member deaths by mid-life, according to a study by the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

It’s a trend that is likely to be damaging to the health of black Americans in the long run, the researchers said. Racial disparities in life expectancy and mortality risk in the United States also suggest that blacks are exposed to more family member deaths earlier and throughout their life than whites.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [$10 for article access], UT Austin researchers examined racial disparities in exposure and timing of family member deaths to uncover an underappreciated layer of racial inequality, which results from reoccurring bereavement that may lead to the intergenerational transmission of black health disadvantages.

“The potentially substantial damage to surviving family members is a largely overlooked area of racial disadvantage,” said Debra Umberson, a sociology professor who is the director of the Population Research Center. “By calling attention to this heightened vulnerability of black Americans, our findings underscore the need to address the potential impact of more frequent and earlier exposure to family member deaths in the process of cumulative disadvantage.”

Using nationally representative datasets of more than 42,000 people, Umberson and her colleagues compared non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white Americans on their exposure to death of biological parents, siblings, children and spouses, as well as the total number of deaths experienced at different ages.

Umberson emphasizes that bereavement following the death of even one close family member has lasting adverse consequences for health. Premature losses are especially devastating.

“If losing a family member is a disadvantage in the present in ways that disrupt the future, racial disparities in these losses over the life course is a tangible manifestation of racial inequality that needs to be systematically documented,” she said.

The study showed that blacks experienced more family member deaths overall than whites. They were twice as likely to experience the death of two or more family members by age 30 and 90 percent more likely to experience four or more deaths by age 65. In stark contrast, whites were 50 percent more likely to never experience a family member death by age 65.

The researchers found overall that blacks were at greater risk of losing a mother from early childhood through young adulthood, a father through their mid-teens, a sibling in their teens and a child by the age of 30. The race-gap diminishes only slightly at ages 70 and up when whites begin to experience more loss, the researchers said.

Specific findings include:

  • In a cohort born in the 1980s,
    • Blacks were three times more likely to lose a mother, more than twice as likely to lose a father and 20 percent more likely to lose a sibling by age 10.
    • Blacks were two and a half times more likely to lose a child by age 30.
  • Among several older cohorts born in the 1900s to the 1960s,
    • Blacks were nearly twice as likely as whites to lose a spouse by age 60.
    • Blacks were 50 percent more likely to lose a sibling between the ages of 50 and 70.
    • Between the ages of 50 and 70 Blacks were three times more likely than whites to lose a child.

“This is the first population-based documentation of earlier and repeated bereavement experiences for Black Americans,” Umberson said. “Death of family members is highly likely to disrupt and strain other family relationships as well as the formation, duration and quality of relationships across the life course, further contributing to a broad range of adverse life outcomes including poor health and lower life expectancy.”

Report: Mexican army aided in Ayotzinapa kidnaps


Soon after the 26 September 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero [previously], reports began to emerge indicating that the Mexican army may have taken part in crime.

The Mexican government, needless to say, has denied any involvement.

But now comes a report from one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists confirms the army’s involvement and lays more blame of the government for the Attorney General’s role in the coverup..

From teleSUR English:

On Friday, famed Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernandez reported that she read a secret report written by former head of internal affairs for the Mexican Attorney General, Cesar Alejandro Chavez Flores, which says officials from Mexico’s military, federal police, and the attorney general’s office itself “were present for all of the criminal events against” the students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School.

According to Hernandez, the “most important conclusion” of the report, written by Chavez Flores and reportedly signed off on by the former Attorney General, Arely Gomez, before her own October resignation, is that the captain of the 27th Battalion of the Mexican army was directly involved in the disappearances.

On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, a busload of students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, an Indigenous teacher training school renowned for its activism, was pulled over in the southwestern state of Guerrero on its way to a demonstration in support of striking teachers. During a confrontation 6 people were killed, 25 injured, and 43 of the students were disappeared.

While the Mexican government continues to claim that the 43 students were killed by drug lords with the complicity of local police, several independent investigations have raised serious doubts about the story, suggesting national police and military involvement.

Hernandez also said that the yet to be released internal affairs report confirms an earlier leaked report by the Attorney General’s office that the former director of criminal investigations, Tomas Zeron de Lucio, had planted evidence and used brutal torture to help fabricate the government’s version of the events.

The report Hernandez read appears to be the fruits of an investigation into the allegations against Zeron de Lucio which the government ordered after his resignation.

Hernandez also said President Enrique Peña Nieto personally ordered the suppression of the two damning reports.

Chart of the day II: Thee world’s happiest workers


And the U.S. is way down the list.

From a Universum Global survey of 200,000+ young workers in 57 countries, with rankings based on three factors: Employee satisfaction, an employee’s willingness to recommend a current employer, and an employee’s likelihood to switch jobs in the next two to four years:

blog-workers

Aussie students hoist the Pharma Bro’s petard


Remember Pharma Bro?

That’s the nickname of Martin Shkreli, the greedy investor who plunged into the depths of infamy when he upped the price of a vital malaria drug by 30 times when it bought the only company that makes it.

Well, it seems some Australian students found a way to make the pils, which Shkreli priced at $750 a pop for a mere two bucks.

In other words, you could buy 375 of their pills from what one of Pharma Bro’s would cost you, before an internal furor forced him to cut the price to a mere $375.

Besides malaria, the drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis [previously], a disease caused by exposure to cats, and parasitical infections sometimes found in AIDS patients.

Well, it looks like the price will be coming down, and very soon.

From euronews:

The man who became a global figure of greed after hiking the price of a life-saving drug by 5000 percent in the US, may have just met his match.

Last year, US entrepreneur Martin Shkreli bought Turing Pharmaceuticals and almost immediately increased the price of the medicine Daraprim in the US from $13.50 to $750.

Now a group of school students in Australia has replicated a key-ingredient in the medicine for just $2.

Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug used to treat malaria and HIV patients.

One of the students taking part in the experiments, Brandon Lee said: “It was a lot of trial and error, the process. We had to repeat a lot of the reactions and try different reaction conditions in order to see which materials in which things would react to make the Daraprim. But, yeah, it was a rollercoaster of emotions sometimes. I think because we are high school students we are able to relate to a larger audience, able to relate to the general public and show that even ordinary high school students like us, are able to make this drug for a pretty low price.”