Tag: Eldar Shafir

Friday roundup – April 25 through April 29, 2016

DC Trust interim Executive Director Angela Jones Hackley and board chair Marie Johns shared a message to friends and colleaguesregarding news that broke in The Washington Post about the organization. (WaPo, 4/26)

–  The District has one of the highest rates of asthma in the U.S. and many of those sufferers are lower-income children. Despite this fact, a planned homeless shelter in ward 5 is slated to open right near a bus garage. (WaPo, 4/23)

– Following a recent Putting Racism on the Table session on mass incarceration, Graham McLaughlin of the Advisory Board Company and returning citizen and business owner Anthony Pleasant discussed their personal insights into the justice system and the many challenges facing returning citizens. (Daily, 4/25)

– A newly-released report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the impact of having an incarcerated parent on families. According to the study, nearly 10,000 children in D.C. have a parent who has been jailed. (WCP, 4/26)

– When Parents Are in Prison, Children Suffer (NYT, 4/26)

– Ahead of WRAG’s upcoming Brightest Minds event featuring author and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University Eldar Shafir on May 18WRAG Philanthropy Fellow Hannah Davis broke down the idea of the “scarcity trap,”and why having too little is a such a big deal. (Daily, 4/26)

 Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons With Health Problems And No Coverage (NPR, 4/24)

–  Heroin epidemic worsens in Virginia (WTOP, 4/25)

Click the image below to access WRAG’S Community Calendar. To have your event included, please send basic information including event title, date/time, location, a brief description of the event, and a link for further details to: myers@washingtongrantmakers.org.

Calendar won’t display? Click here.

When you hug a dog, they probably want you to stop doing that…according to psychology.

– Ciara

Even a small amount of savings can make a difference for families

A new Urban Institute report explores the relationship between the economic health of cities and the financial health of its residents. While it’s no surprise that having wealthier families leads to wealthier cities, the study looks at how families experiencing hardships with even a small amount of savings can avoid spiraling into instability and creating greater costs for municipalities. (City Lab, 4/26):

Hardship outcomes matter to cities. Eviction is a leading cause of homelessness, especially for families with children. Eviction also leads some families to seek out substandard living conditions. Residential instability limits opportunities for children and youths. Missed utility payments, another form of hardship, is a cost for municipalities. So are public benefits.


Financial insecurity is a problem for families that can take the form of food insecurity, poor health outcomes, and homelessness. The Urban Institute’s research shows that a family’s financial insecurity is also a city’s problem. When families without savings suffer income disruptions (which are common), they may turn to public benefits. Or they may turn to more expensive forms of support. Or they may suffer. All of these outcomes at the family level detract from a city’s overall financial health.

– Ahead of WRAG’s upcoming Brightest Minds event featuring author and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University Eldar Shafir on May 18WRAG’s Philanthropy Fellow Hannah Davis explains the notion of the “scarcity trap,” and why having too little is a big deal. (Daily, 4/26)

– Opinion: Natalie Wexler, education blogger/editor of Greater Greater Education and DC Eduphile, and trustee of the Omega Foundation, explores why it’s so important for decision makers to stop viewing reading as the “broccoli” that low-income students must eat before getting to the “dessert”- art, history, music and more. (DC Eduphile, 4/18)

– The Growing College-Degree Wealth Gap (Atlantic, 4/25)

–  Heroin epidemic worsens in Virginia (WTOP, 4/25)

– Suicide rates are on the rise for every age group under 75, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 experiencing the highest percent increase. Economic stagnation, drug use, lack of health coverage, and even earlier puberty ages are counted as possible reasons for depression that leads to more suicides. (WAMU, 4/21)

– Do Local Governments Have a Role to Play in Mental Health? (City Lab, 4/19)

– Americans for the Arts delivers their sixth and final publication of the National Arts Index, an annual report on the health and vitality of arts and culture in the U.S.

– With a number of recent transitions in the District’s dance scene, here’s a look at what’s on the horizon in the near future. (Dance Magazine, 4/15)

AudioIs Jazz Sustainable In Washington, D.C.? (WAMU, 4/21)

Have you read any of these remarkable book titles?

– Ciara

The big problem of having too little

By Hannah Davis
Philanthropy Fellow at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Hannah is a Master of Public Management student at University of Maryland focusing on social justice and nonprofit leadership. She is currently serving as a Philanthropy Fellow with the Institute for corporate social responsibility.

I sat in amazement as everyone pulled out their calculators and got to work on a budget equation my professor put on the board. It was the first day of class. I had no idea where to start and math is certainly not one of my strengths. I had felt overwhelmed before I even entered the classroom. With three other graduate school classes, a fellowship, and launching my own venture, I just couldn’t even think about where to begin.

A few days later I emailed my professor telling him I had to drop the course. “I would like to be in a space where I can fully take the time to understand what’s being taught,” I said to him. I’m sure he laughed when he saw the email, but I was serious. My mental bandwidth was at its max.

In their book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir –the next speaker in WRAG’s Brightest Minds series – explain that scarcity captures our attention and “impedes our ability to focus on other things.” This idea of “less mind” is captured by Mullainathan and Shafir with the umbrella term “bandwidth,” which they define as our capacity and ability to pay attention, make good decisions, stick with our plans, and resist temptations. Bandwidth isn’t about intelligence; it’s about scarcity.

Scarcity is having less than you feel you need. Whether it’s time, money, or even the willpower to resist that piece of cake, scarcity directly impacts your mental bandwidth. By focusing on one thing, what is it you’re not focusing on?

Being poor is hard. As a social worker, I have seen firsthand parents juggling two or three jobs and struggling to make ends meet every month. We sign people up for GED classes and job training programs thinking if we just give them the educational skills they’re missing we’ll be able to decrease our TANF and SNAP rolls. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The authors explain that education comes with a price tag for the poor. For example, spending 8 hours in class causes a person to miss out on a day’s worth of pay, making it that much harder to pay rent. Imagine trying to focus in class if you’re wondering how you’re going to make up those work hours. Your attendance in that class is in vain and the cycle – what the authors call the “scarcity trap” — begins again.

These mini-fires happen every day for families in poverty and much of their mental bandwidth goes to constantly putting out these fires. I’m looking forward to Eldar Shafir’s Brightest Minds talk on May 18 and hearing how we can look at poverty through a scarcity lens. All aspects of a person’s life, behavior, and actions are linked and we need to begin connecting them to create policies and programs that truly make a difference for those we serve.

For me, Scarcity has been life-changing. It led me to my second Master’s in Public Management and has re-shaped my social work practice. Incorporating the psychology of scarcity into our work will only lead to better solutions for everyone.

Join us to hear from Scarcity co-author Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, on May 18 at the Meyer Foundation. This event is open to the public. Click here for more details.

View the first video

The first video in the “Putting Racism on the Table” series is now live! The video features Professor john a. powell, Professor of Law and Professor of African-American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, speaking on structural racism. After you’ve had a chance to view the video, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the series in general or on the specific topic via Twitter, using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, and on WRAG’s Facebook page. (Daily, 3/9)

– The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging a new policy that would have pediatricians begin screening children for poverty by asking their parents if they are able to meet their family’s financial needs. The move comes as part of an effort to improve mental health and public health outcomes in children, by addressing the impact of toxic stress caused by poverty. (USN, 3/9)

Related: Recently, Dr. Matthew Biel, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Georgetown University Medical Center, joined us as the opening speaker for WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Speaker Series, to discuss the impact of toxic stress on child development.

– A study out of the University of Michigan examined more than 100,000 American households’ purchasing habits of toilet paper over a period of seven years. Researchers found that when it comes to buying necessities (like toilet paper and other household items) it takes money to save money – further supporting the notion that it is expensive to be poor. (WaPo, 3/8)

Related: On Wednesday, May 18, we will hear from Eldar Shafir, co-author of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, on the psychological influence of scarcity. This event is open to the public with registration.

– Your chances at becoming poor may be higher than you think (WaPo, 3/8)

COMMUNITY | Congratulations to Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) on being awarded the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s (NCRP) Impact Award for Small/Midsized Private Foundation! CHF president and CEO Yanique Redwood also serves as vice president of the WRAG board. The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 3.

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS | For some low-income families and individuals in need, strict zero-tolerance housing policies can create a vicious cycle in which they suddenly find themselves out of a place to call home. (Washingtonian, 3/7)

HEALTH | Medical Bills Still Take A Big Toll, Even With Insurance (NPR, 3/8)

DISTRICT | Mayor Muriel Bowser Announces Tech Hub Promoting Minority Companies (DCist, 3/8)

CSR | The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce invites you to apply for the Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards. The application period is open through Friday, April 1, 2016, and is available online.

So…those cherry blossoms will be arriving a little sooner than expected.

– Ciara

How growing up in a poor neighborhood can impact boys and girls differently

A new analysis examines how childhood environment can impact social mobility for boys and girls. The study looks at how boys and girls from the same poor neighborhood are often affected very differently by their surroundings, with boys often experiencing tougher circumstances (City Lab, 2/3):

The researchers analyzed tax records of 10,000 U.S. citizens born between 1980 and 1982 once they turned 30, as well as economic and social data on their parents while they were growing up. Their findings “demonstrate that gender gaps in adulthood have roots in childhood, perhaps because childhood disadvantage is especially harmful for boys.” The findings are significant not just in understanding how place matters for social mobility of men and women, but for explaining trends about the U.S. labor force as a whole.

Related: WRAG is kicking off our 2016 Brightest Minds series, supported by JP Morgan Chase, in which thought leaders share ideas that may make you think about your communities and work in whole new ways. Check out this year’s exciting line-up which includes speaker Eldar Shafir, who will be discussing poverty’s influence on cognition and decision-making. WRAG’s Brightest Minds programs are open to the public.

EDUCATION | This fall, 10 new D.C. Public Schools will begin an extended school year in an effort to combat summer learning loss – a big problem for many children from low-income families. Those schools will join the more than 40 schools in the DCPS system that already have extended days. (WAMU, 2/3)

Related: WRAG is also excited to roll out our 2016 Public Education Speaker Series, supported by the Omega Foundation and and the Tiger Woods Foundation, on a variety of critical topics facing students today. Education Funders: Click here to learn more about the series and to register. Please, note that these programs are open to grantmakers only.

– A new, first-of-its-kind resource, The Almanac of American Philanthropy, serves as a definitive guide of the “power and cultural importance of American giving.” The book is produced by The Philanthropy Roundtable and features information on great achievements in American philanthropy, the most influential donors, significant ideas, and more. (Philanthropy Roundtable, 2/4)

– The Atlas of Giving estimates a 2.6 percent rise in charitable giving in 2016. (Chronicle, 2/3)

Could Giving Circles Rebuild Philanthropy from the Bottom Up? (NPQ, 2/4)

ARTS | In Ward 8, the Anacostia Arts Center, often considered one of the area’s “best-kept secrets,” shows much promise for the surrounding neighborhood’s growth. (WaPo, 1/28)

Were any of these books featured on your college syllabus?

– Ciara