Category Archives: TIME magazine

American Grace co-author David Campbell on religion and giving



David Campbell (Co-Author of American Grace) has a piece in on the link between religion and giving.


Over the last twenty years, one of the most stunning changes to the American social landscape has been the dramatic rise in the percentage of Americans who report having no religious affiliation—the group that has come to be known as the “nones.” Today, 20 percent of Americans disclaim a religious affiliation,and among millennials, it is over 30 percent. At the same time, there has been a growing debate over whether the secularization of society will lead to a decrease in charitable giving, with secularists—whether they consider themselves atheists, agnostics, or humanists—tending to argue that fewer religious Americans will simply mean fewer contributions to pay for churches and synagogues that fewer Americans are attending anyway.

Not exactly. A new report by Jumpstart and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy details the many ways that religion and the charitable sector are intertwined. Based on a major national survey, this report finds that three-quarters of all household charitable giving goes to organizations that have religious ties. These span the range from large organizations like the Salvation Army (which, many Americans do not realize, is actually a church) to small soup kitchens run out of church basements.

Read the rest of David Campbell’s “Religious People are More Charitable” (, 11/26/13)

Stalled upward social mobility in America [UPDATED 2/14/12]

Flickr photo by AtleBrunvoll

Rana Foroohar’s cover story in TIME (Nov. 2011) is entitled What Ever Happened to Upward Mobility? Her answer is that it has stalled in the US and fallen behind rates of upward mobility in the US, Sweden or Denmark.  According to Foroohar (and based on a Pew study), a male born in the 1970s into the bottom fifth of the wealth distribution had only a 17% chance of making it to the top wealth quintile.  And while 50% of young males in this low-wealth quintile remained stuck there in the US, it was only 30% in UK or 25% in Denmark and Sweden, so upward mobility was much higher in those nations.  [Swedish economist Markus Jantti led the research project that uncovered these numbers.]

Foroohar (after consulting experts from places like Goldman Sachs) says that China and other emerging countries are driving inequality by taking away good middle class US jobs.   Foroohar believes that the answer lies in more progressive tax rates (with fewer loopholes) and greater investments in public education (which is the engine of economic mobility).

Fareed Zakaria also has three pieces on this: “The Downward Path of Upward Mobility” (Wash. Post op-ed, 11/10/11), a CNN video entitled “Fix Education, Restore Social Mobility” (about how lack of investment in education causing stagnating upward mobility is at heart of Occupy Wall Street movement), and “When will we learn” (TIME, 11/14/11).

Bhaskar Mazumder, of the Chicago Fed, highlights research that he believes shows a decrease in US social mobility from 1980-1990 and then growing less rapidly from 1990-2000 (based on studies of brothers). Mazumder notes that mobility measures are by methodological approach “backward-looking” since they impose a several decade lag before one learns of corrosive influences in society for social mobility; he  notes  that “the gap in children’s academic performance between high- and low-income families has widened significantly over the last few decades. If this trend persists, it would point to reduced intergenerational economic mobility going forward.”

We have been doing work on the connection between income inequality and social inequality among youth (that exacerbates the test score gaps) and will report on that later, but suffice it say that we find a connection between the “blue inequality” (income inequality) and “red inequality” (the ability of college graduates to pass on advantages from a generation to another) that David Brooks writes about.

In November 2011, a variety of non-profit, corporate, academic and media leaders convened to discuss social mobility in the Opportunity Nation summit.  Opportunity Nation has released an Opportunity Index that enables you look state by state or county by county to see how that locality is doing in terms of economic opportunity. And you can see videos of some of the speakers here.  Rick Warren cited an eye-opening statistic: 25% of Anglo kids, 50% of Hispanic kids, & 75% of black kids are growing up today without a stable father in the home (these are out of wedlock births).  This work is picked up in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and in Nick Kristoff’s “The White Underclass“.

And interestingly, even conservative media venues like the National Review and the FrumForum (here and here) are discussing the decline of social mobility as noted in “Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs“, citing Republican experts like John Bridgeland.  Even Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has admitted that social mobility up into the middle class is higher in Europe than in the US. Excerpt from Scott Winship’s piece in the National Review here:

The Economic Mobility Project/Brookings analyses break the parent and child generations into fifths on the basis of each generation’s income distribution. If being raised in the bottom fifth were not a disadvantage and socioeconomic outcomes were random, we would expect to see 20 percent of Americans who started in the bottom fifth remain there as adults, while 20 percent would end up in each of the other fifths. Instead, about 40 percent are unable to escape the bottom fifth. This trend holds true for other measures of mobility: About 40 percent of men will end up in low-skill work if their fathers had similar jobs, and about 40 percent will end up in the bottom fifth of family wealth (as opposed to income) if that’s where their parents were.

Is 40 percent a good or a bad number? On first reflection, it may seem impressive that 60 percent of those starting out in the bottom make it out. But most of them do not make it far out. Only a third make it to the top three fifths. Whether this is a level of upward mobility with which we should be satisfied is a question usefully approached by way of the following thought experiment: If you’re reading this essay, chances are pretty good that your household income puts you in one of the top two fifths, or that you can expect to be there at age 40. (We’re talking about roughly $90,000 for an entire household.) How would you feel about your child’s having only a 17 percent chance of achieving the equivalent status as an adult? That’s how many kids with parents in the bottom fifth around 1970 made it to the top two-fifths by the early 2000s. In fact, if the last generation is any guide, your child growing up in the top two-fifths today will have a 60 percent chance of being in the top two fifths as an adult. That’s the impact of picking the right parents — increasing the chances of ending up middle- to upper-middle class by a factor of three or four.

See somewhat related Social Capital blog piece on increased residential income segregation.

Read Paul Krugman’s excellent “We are the 99.9%” (NYT, 11/24/11)

Read Nick Kristof’s excellent piece “Occupy the Agenda” (NY Times, 11/19/11)

Listen to Steven Haider (Michigan State Univ. economist) on Michigan Public Radio (11/18/11) discussing the myth of upward mobility in America.

Other pieces on this topic:

TIME Magazine: “The Land of Opportunity” by Richard Stengel, 11/14/11

Washington Post-ABC News Poll:   [see questions 16-18]

December 2011 OECD report Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising on how inequality among OECD countries is at a record high over the past 30 years and demands action.

The reports that Zakaria uses to show that mobility is lower in US than in Europe are:
– OECD 2010 report:
– German Institute for the Study of Labor report (2006):

– Professor Miles Corak (economist at Univ. of Ottawa) compared rates of mobility in a review of over 50 studies spanning nine countries.

– See Scott Winship’s testimony to Senate Budget Committee (Feb. 9, 2012) on inequality and social mobility, and see Jared Bernstein’s and Heather Boushey’s as well.

Two of most startling charts of testimony were one by CBO showing how the income of the top 1% is the one cohort that has done well over the last 40 years in the US economy:

And one showing that, unlike in most countries where progressive taxation is used to curb the excessive inequalities of the market and ease the distribution somewhat, the tax and transfer system in the US actually make inequality WORSE.

Transforming 9-11 Into a Day of Service

The movement to transform 9-11 into an annual day of service picked up some momentum this year., the nonprofit founded in 2003 by friends and relatives of 9-11 victims, gained two important allies this year in their quest: ServiceNation and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. ServiceNation is a coalition of more than 600 nonprofit groups nationwide which is hosting the two presidential candidates in a civic engagement forum in New York on Sept. 11.   Obama and McCain have agreed to’s request that they suspend campaigning and negative advertising on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this year, and instead engage in voluntary service.

“The anniversary of September 11 should be officially recognized as a national day of charitable service to honor the 9/11 victims, volunteers and rescue and recovery workers of Ground Zero,” said David Paine, president of “All of us can best honor the memory of those lost by engaging in good deeds, community service and other charitable acts to rekindle the remarkable spirit of unity that existed following the 9/11 tragedy.”

New York Cares has agreed to organize 9-11 service projects together with to also carry out this vision of transforming the day into a day of service.

Details of the program can be found at ServiceNation‘s website, which includes members of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation attending’s signature service project on September 11 at PS 124, a public elementary school in the Chinatown community in downtown Manhattan.

The 25-member Council, created by Executive Order of the President of the United States in 2003, includes actors Stephen Baldwin, Patricia Heaton and Hillary Duff; NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne; Art Linkletter; journalist Cokie Roberts; and other prominent individuals. [List available here.] The Council recognizes the important contributions Americans of all ages are making within their communities through service and civic engagement.

ServiceNation’s summit meeting on national service in New York City on September 11-12, is expected to be attended by more than 500 influential delegates from throughout the nonprofit community. Caroline Kennedy and Alma Powell are co-chairs, and Barack Obama, John McCain, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other nationally prominent figures are expected to participate.

ServiceNation was the brainchild of BeTheChange, CivicEnterprises, CityYear and the Points of Light Foundation (which recently merged with HandsOnNetwork and is now led by HandsOnNetwork founder Michelle Nunn). The vision of ServiceNation is “an America in which, by 2020, 100 million citizens will volunteer time in schools, workplaces, and faith-based and community institutions each and every year (up from 61 million today), and that increasing numbers of Americans annually will commit a year of their lives to national service.”

On a related note:  the forthcoming issue of TIME magazine has a cover story on national service, and I’ve contributed a mini-essay on the importance and promise of national service in building cross-racial bonds.

Background on MyGoodDeed: Each year since the 2001 attacks, the movement has sought to inspire millions of people from around the nation and world to perform good deeds, volunteer and engage in other charitable and civic activities on the anniversary of the attacks, in honor of the victims, volunteers and rescue and recovery workers. In 2007, more than 300,000 good deeds were posted on the Website by participants from all 50 U.S. states and 150 different countries and territories.

Founded in 2003 by two close friends, David Paine and Jay Winuk, following the death of Jay’s brother, attorney and volunteer firefighter Glenn Winuk, who perished in the line of duty on September 11, 2001, has gained widespread bipartisan and bicameral support. In 2004, the MyGoodDeed organization worked closely with Congressional leaders to secure unanimous passage of H. Con. Res. 473, urging the designation of 9/11 as a national day of service, charity and compassion.

Clam Dip as barometer for Gore ’08

Maureen Dowd’s NYT column today (5/23/07) dicusses the coquettish tease of whether Gore is running in 2008.  She notes “He is so fixed on not seeming like a presidential flirt that he risks coming across as a bit of a righteous tease or a high-minded scold, which is exactly what his book is, a high-minded scolding. He upbraided Diane about the graphics for his segment, complaining about buzzwords and saying, ”That’s not what this is about.” But Dowd notes that the TV screen blared ”The Race to ’08,” and featured a crawl that asked ”Will he run for the White House?”

Diane Sawyer on GMA noted that Donna Brazile, Gore’s former campaign manager, had said, ‘If he drops 25 to 30 pounds, he’s running.’ Diane asked pointedly: “Lost any weight?”

James Traub of The New York Times Magazine according to Dowd said that, “as he followed the ex-vice president around, the Goracle was ‘eating like a maniac: I watched him inhale the clam dip at a reception like a man who doesn’t know when his next meal will be coming.””

 Asked about his weight, Gore laughingly said on GMA: ”I think, you know, millions of Americans are in the same struggle I am on that one. ”

So sounds like we’ll have to use Clam Dip consumption as a barometer for whether Gore is running in 2008.  For the moment the answer appears to be no; that is unless he’s planning a William Taft type of candidacy.

I’m sure there is some connection between living life with a smaller ecological footprint and not pigging out on food, but as you know, with apologies to Emerson, ‘a foolish consistency is the hobgobblin of little minds.’

 Your thoughts?

P.S. In a recent cover story photo of Al Gore (I assume this is a recent photo, although it could have been airbrushed) he looks a bit less double-chinned.  [The Story is called “The Last Temptation of Al Gore”, but I assume they are not talking about that clam dip.]  However the contrast between the accompanying pictures tell the story:  here’s Al as thinner V.P. candidate with Clinton in ’92; or even this one from the Inconvenient Truth Road Show.  In contrast, here’s Al today or this one.