Millions of Americans are poor, food insecure, housing cost-burdened, or medically uninsured. This is where the U.S. social safety net comes in – with programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment insurance – to catch their fall. But how many experience a smooth landing? And how can society provide tangible relief to those who miss the net entirely? We sought answers from professor of public policy Chris Howard, who broke down what’s included when we talk about the “social safety net” and proposed ways to mend the gaping holes.
For more on this topic:
Check out Chris Howard’s new SSN brief: A Realistic Portrait of the Social Safety Net
Pre-order his forthcoming book, Who Cares: The Social Safety Net in America
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine have brought an increased number of refugees to America over the past year. Enter refugee resettlement agencies – organizations that provide food, shelter, and of course, job placement to newly arrived refugees. But according to sociologist Dr. Nicole Kreisberg, their current strategy of job placement is deeply flawed: prioritizing immediate yet low-wage work over long-term reliable employment. Kreisberg spoke to us about the harms of this strategy, and what needs to be done to truly support incoming refugees.
For more on this topic:
Check out Nicole Kreisberg’s SSN brief, co-written by Els de Graauw and Shannon Gleeson: Refugee Settlement Should Look Beyond First Job Placements
Read her recent paper, also co-written by Els de Graauw and Shannon Gleeson: Explaining Refugee Employment Declines: Structural Shortcomings in Federal Resettlement Support
The US Supreme Court has a long history of firmly defending its philosophy of neutrality and did the same for the recent and historic overturn of Roe. Wade. But according to law professor Cedric Merlin Powell, the Court’s neutral stance on cases impacting marginalized groups – including women and communities of color – ignores inequalities and in doing so, worsens them. Professor Powell sat down to speak with us about the serious harms caused by a judicial branch whose decisionmaking ignores the realities of racism, sexism, and other oppressive forces in our society.
For more of Cedric Merlin Powell’s work:
Check out his SSN brief: How Race-Neutral Rulings by the Supreme Court Perpetuate Inequalities
Pre-order his forthcoming book , Post-Racial Constitutionalism and the Roberts Court
Last but not least, SSN is excited to highlight a new podcast series, When the People Decide, by The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at PennState. In this series, Jenna Spinelle tells the stories of activists, legislators, academics, and average citizens who changed their cities, states, and the country by taking important issues directly to voters — like Medicaid expansion in Idaho, sentencing reform in California, and LGBTQ workplace protections in Ohio.
More and more Americans are facing massive student debt and daunting payment plans once the federal pause on loan payments runs out. But this burden is not spread evenly, and neither are the challenges of paying it off. In this episode, we spoke to Associate Professor of Public Policy Fenaba Addo about who is really facing a student debt crisis, what contributes to student debt accumulation, and how race and family wealth factor into it all.
For more of Fenaba Addo’s work:
Millennials are often seen as a progressive-minded generation – as 80’s and 90’s kids, they grew up in a digital landscape that exposed them to a diversity of perspectives. But while expectations were high that this generation would be on the frontlines in the fight for racial equality, recent research by Associate Professor of Political Science Candis Watts Smith paints a different picture. During our conversation, Professor Smith discussed how white millennials’ really think about race and the ways in which their views and beliefs have largely halted progress for Black Americans and other racial minorities in the United States.
For more of Candis Smith’s work:
Check out her book on this research, Racial Stasis: The Millennial Generation and the Stagnation of Racial Attitudes in American Politics
Read her latest book Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter
Listen to her podcast, Democracy Works, to hear interviews with experts who study all different aspects of what it means to live in a democracy.
Conversations around climate change often focus on the consumption habits of everyday people: the cars we drive, the food we eat, our electricity bills. But according to geography professor Matt Huber, the carbon footprints of consumers are not what we should be so concerned about, despite all the rhetoric. During our conversation, Professor Huber focused on what (and who) he argues are largely responsible for our alarmingly high rate of carbon emissions – and offered solutions.
For more of Matt Huber’s work:
Check out his new book coming out on May 10th: Climate Change as Class War
Read his opinion article on this topic published in Jacobin: Rich People are Fueling Climate Catastrophe – But Not Mostly Because of Their Consumption
Check out his new book coming out on March 8th Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics – and How to Cure It
Read another one of his recent books on this topic Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy
For more of Tova Walsh’s work:
Check out her recent opinion article published in NBC News: As COVID surges, health officials must remember that in-person postpartum care is essential
Amidst the dizzying onslaught of crises facing the nation – and the world – over the past several years, we are starting the new year by reflecting on how Americans react and respond to traumatic events, both as individuals and as groups. How do frightening circumstances facing our communities impact us psychologically? Why does so much disparity exist in the ways we process the same harmful events? How can we connect and find unity amidst all the chaos? These are some of the questions we explored with Dr. Maurice Stevens, a professor of comparative studies whose critical trauma theory research focuses on ways individuals and communities react to overwhelming events.
For more of Maurice Stevens’s work:
Check out their SSN brief on this topic: Getting Beyond Trauma.
Read a similar piece they published in Oppositional Conversations titled Contesting Catastrophes.