Who are the middle class?

Miles Corak’s latest with a great chart comparing the richest 10 percent, the poorest 40 percent, and those in the middle in terms of share of income.

Economics for public policy

slice of pieOne economist recently suggested that there are as many as 156 definitions of the middle class. If this statistical potluck isn’t complicated enough, pollsters also tell us that a very large fraction of the population describe themselves as “middle class.”

You can see why politicians have made the “middle class” an election issue, but also why they might hesitate to answer the question: “Who are the middle class?”

It isn’t a contradiction for many people to feel they are in the “middle” even if their incomes are well above average or well below. There’s a certain truth to this because most Canadians share a set of common concerns that go beyond just their incomes.

You are “middle class” if you aspire to a better tomorrow, and have a hope for growth and progress in your circumstances; you are “middle class” if you are struggling with uncertainty, and worried if…

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Why Dropping ‘Anchor Baby’ Is a Problem for US Politicians | TIME

Good article on the history of the term “anchor babies” in the US, and how it has evolved into an offensive term (in Canada, the term generally used is birth tourism, where the numbers are tiny):

This about-face stirred debates about who should decide what’s offensive and who shouldn’t. Was an American institution kowtowing to liberals? Or was a dictionary being descriptive about how a word is truly perceived among English-speakers? When Oxford Dictionaries quietly added their definition after that controversy settled, they tagged it with a bright orange offensive label. Those signs are, Oxford editor Katherine Martin says, not chosen by lexicographers making emotional decrees but affixed as guidance for people who want to use the language intelligently.

Often when language gets accused of being offensive, public figures and media shift to more neutral ground, which can lead to some exhausting phrasing. (When the AP banned their journalists from using undocumented immigrant and illegal immigrant, for instance, standards editor Tom Kent suggested to TIME that a more precise description might be “foreigners in the United States in violation of the law.”)

Martin says one problem with anchor baby is that there is no natural alternative, overwrought or otherwise—and not for the neutral reason suggested by Bush, whether or not he meant to insult anyone. “There is no neutral term for this because it is a term that is intended to be derogatory,” she says.

One indication of that intention, as the Washington Post‘s Amber Phillips points out, is that the idea it describes doesn’t entirely make sense in practice. As TIME explained in 2011, “the law says the parents of such a child must wait till she is 21 for her to be allowed to sponsor them to live and work legally in the U.S., and research shows that the vast majority of children of illegal immigrants are born years after the mother and father have arrived in the U.S.”

Regardless, the phrase has stuck. And, while debate over its use can actually lead to discussion of important issues like candidates’ positions on birthright citizenship (Bush is for it; Donald Trump, who also uses the term, is against it), that stickiness is just one more reason for conscientious politicians to steer clear of it, says linguist Zimmer. “The difficulty is that those pithy words and phrases are much more memorable and work their way into the public consciousness,” he says. “And once they’re there, they are difficult to dislodge.”

Source: Why Dropping ‘Anchor Baby’ Is a Problem for Politicians | TIME

An Immigrant in France – Updated Version of an American in Paris?: Mira Kamdar

Interesting account of the immigration process in France:

Most foreigners begin with a one-year permit. In principle, you are eligible for a 10-year permit after five years, and may also be eligible to apply for citizenship. In practice, many people must renew their residency permit every year, a humiliating exercise that makes it nearly impossible to do things that would actually help them integrate into French society, like getting a permanent job or applying for credit.

The real problem is France’s attitude toward immigrants. The populist right has whipped up hysteria with visions of the country being overrun by Muslims from former colonies. In fact, nearly half of all immigrants who arrived in France in 2012 were born in Europe.

In July, France’s National Assembly passed an immigration reform bill after much debate. The right argued it would open the floodgates. Immigrant defense groups said it did not go far enough, and posed new problems. The bill, which is expected to be considered by the Senate by year’s end, would create a multiyear residency card aimed at reducing lines and processing costs at the prefectures. It would allow illegal immigrants awaiting deportation to be assigned to a residence rather than a detention center.

The bill would also give the prefectures intrusive new powers to verify information about foreigners with the health care and employment administrations. Most immigrants in France are required to sign a “contract” pledging to learn French and the values of the republic. Under the bill, they could, depending on their progress, be given another multiyear permit, be bumped back to a one-year permit or be denied residency altogether. The bill would do nothing to guarantee access to the 10-year residency card employers and banks look for as proof of a long-term commitment to stay in France.

In June, my updated residency card finally in hand, I filled out the form to apply for a 10-year permit. Like all immigrants here, I know there are no guarantees.

Source: An Immigrant in France – The New York Times

Selecting Boys Over Girls Is A Trend In More And More Countries

Worrisome trend:

But in some countries the balance is tipped unnaturally toward an overabundance of boys, an imbalance that is likely to last through the reproductive years. Several things have combined to lead to what researchers call “missing women.”

Many countries have a deep-seated cultural preference for sons over daughters. Inexpensive blood tests that can determine the sex of a fetus as early as seven weeks have been developed. And countries around the world have imported ultrasound equipment. “Ultrasound is available even in very poor countries,” says Hudson. “The Chinese government actually imported ultrasound machines mounted on carts in the 20th century, so that even the most remote village would have access to this technology.”

In 1995, only six countries had such a marked imbalance of boys to girls. Today, 21 countries have a skewed sex ratio favoring boys. The growth of gender imbalance in only two decades points to widespread acceptance of modern technology that can predict the sex of the fetus, according to Hudson.

Technology has enabled even the poorest of countries to bypass the natural gender balance. “It’s largely due to the abortion of females,” says Hudson. “But it’s also due to passive neglect, such as underfeeding, underimmunization, and failing to take girls to the doctor when they’re sick.” Abortions of females can happen before anyone in the community notices a pregnancy, she says. And when girls are abandoned or neglected so severely that they die, it often doesn’t create much of a stir among people who understand the preference for boys.

“No one raises it as a public issue within the community, so while it’s not secret, it isn’t commented upon,” says Hudson.

The result of sex-selective abortions, infanticide and neglect of baby girls, according to the United Nations Population Fund, is more than 117 million “missing” females in Asia alone, and many more around the world.

And for every missing woman, there is a surplus man who will never establish a family. “Men are unable to marry,” Hudson says, and frustrated, single men are more likely get into trouble. “It leads to instability. In masculinized societies, there are issues such as rising violent crime rates, increasing rates of gang activity and rebel group activity, increasing prostitution and trafficking, and greater constraints on the movement of women.”

One country with a tradition of preferring male offspring has successfully corrected the imbalance. “South Korea is the only country I know of that has clawed back its abnormal sex ratios back to the normal range,” says Hudson. And it did this not by trying to change culture, tradition, hearts or minds — but by changing laws.

In South Korea, sons were responsible for performing ancestral rites and for the care and support of elderly parents. When the government began promoting a two-child norm in the 1970s, Hudson wrote in Foreign Policy, the ratio of boys to girls climbed to a peak of 116.5 to 100 in 1990. That’s when the South Korean government began to overhaul laws that favored sons. Women gained full rights in inheritance and in heading families. The government enforced a ban on prenatal sex testing. A pension system was established so that neither sons nor daughters were fully responsible for the care of the elderly. And today, South Korea’s ratio of boys to girls reflects nature’s average.

But a growing number of countries continue traditions, policies and practices that favor sons over daughters. “These trends do not bode well for the stability and security of nations, regions and even the international system,” says Hudson. “There is a real price to be paid for the devaluation of female life.”

Source: Selecting Boys Over Girls Is A Trend In More And More Countries : Goats and Soda : NPR

Is ‘racial colour-blindness’ hurting our children?

The risks of colour blindness to identity (US study):

A new study by Social Psychological and Personality Science, When societal norms and social identity collide, asks this question in relation to how minority children living in western countries see both themselves and others. “Their racial background is often integral to their identity and how others perceive them,” stated the study’s authors Kristin Pauker, Evan Apfelbaum and Brian Spitzer. “Yet, talk of race is taboo.”

The study came to this conclusion after gathering 108 American-raised Latino, Asian, Black and Caucasian children between the ages of 9 and 12 and asked them to play a game similar to “Guess Who.” Each child was given 40 photos and told they had to ask as few questions as possible to figure out which card the other person was holding.

Children who come under the “visible minority” umbrella, it seems, were just as likely to avoid the topic of race.

“It is troubling that pressures to adhere to colour-blind norms override talk of race, even among racial minority children,” wrote the authors. In fact, only 40 per cent of the children asked questions like “are they Black?” or “are they White?” in order to win the game.

Afterwards, about 58 per cent said it would have been rude or offensive to ask those types of questions, while 23 per cent insisted it would be extremely racist. “Teachers are particularly important social referents for instilling norms regarding race,” noted the study.

Is ‘racial colour-blindness’ hurting our children? | Globalnews.ca

Stephen Harper to pledge funds to help new Canadians find work in their field

Relatively few citizenship and immigration related announcements so far in the campaign. This recycled and possible expanded one from the Conservatives:

CBC News has learned that Harper will visit a Markham, Ont., manufacturing plant, where he will announce new money for the Foreign Credential Recognition Loan program.

The federal government introduced the program in 2011 as a pilot project. It was made permanent just this year, when the budget put aside $35 million for it over five years. Today’s announcement is expected to add even more money to the program.

According to the government, 36 per cent of new Canadians face financial barriers in getting their foreign credentials recognized. The costs range from $100 to $25,000, and can include paying for retraining or recertification exams.

Professionals affected range from physicians to those who work in the Red Seal trades, which include dozens of professions that have a set of nationally recognized standards, such as electricians, engineers and plumbers.

Source: Stephen Harper to pledge funds to help new Canadians find work in their field – Politics – CBC News

Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote: Lulu 30 Percent Off Sale Extended August 28-30

Lulu Sale 28 Aug

For any of you interested in the print version (available here, author page here), 30 percent off sale at Lulu has been extended to August 30.

National Post View: Are Republican candidates actually on to something about “anchor babies”? | National Post

National Post Editorial on the US debate in the Republican primaries on  birth tourism (‘anchor babies’) and implications for Canada:

We aren’t endorsing any policy change here, but would simply point out that birthright citizenship is not the gold standard of fairness many might believe. As with the United States, changing the status quo would involve great expense and effort, making it of questionable pragmatic value. But in principle, the GOP candidates have a point: in a liberal democracy, the right of citizenship should be based on actual connection to the country in question, not a mere reflection of where one happened to be born.

The editorial ignores that CIC and provincial evidence shows this is a minimal issue in terms of numbers (see my earlier article of a year ago in the Hill Times What happened to Kenney’s cracking down on birth tourism? Feds couldn’t do it alone):

Officials could only identify about 500 cases of suspected birth tourism out of an annual average of some 360,000 live births in Canada, or 0.14 per cent.

CIC public consultations in  2013 resulted only in more anecdotes, not hard evidence.

Evidence-based editorials please!

National Post View: Are Republican candidates actually on to something about “anchor babies”? | National Post.

Black kids stay longest in care, CAS study shows

Black_kids_stay_longest_in_care__CAS_study_shows___Toronto_StarMore data on children’s aid in Toronto (see earlier article):

Black children in Toronto stay longer in foster care and group homes than any other group of kids.

A survey conducted by the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto found 45 per cent of black children taken from parents in the 2008 fiscal year spent more than 12 months in care.

Only 20 per cent of white children taken during that period spent more than a year in care. For children with Asian parents, the number was 18 per cent.

The study looked only at families who came into contact with children’s aid for the first time. Of those families, 126 of them had children taken into care.

The numbers were part of a Toronto society analysis that also highlights what black parents have been angry about for years: their children are taken into care at rates far higher than white children.

It confirms numbers first reported by the Star in December 2014 — 31 per cent of children in the society’s care are black and a further 11 per cent had one parent who is black. In Toronto, 8.2 per cent of people under 18 are black.

Black kids stay longest in care, CAS study shows | Toronto Star.

Une poursuite en diffamation contre Harper devant les tribunaux: NCCM Case

Will be interesting to watch (earlier story Why Stephen Harper owes Canadian Muslims an apology):

Le bras de fer entre l’avocat de Stephen Harper et celui d’un groupe musulman qui poursuit en diffamation le premier ministre lui-même a commencé mardi, en pleine période électorale.

Le Conseil national des musulmans canadiens (NCCM) poursuit M. Harper et son ex-directeur des communications, Jason MacDonald, pour avoir affirmé à la télévision Sun News que l’organisme avait «des liens documentés avec une organisation terroriste telle que le Hamas».

Le groupe musulman assure avoir toujours dénoncé le terrorisme et demande une rétractation publique pour laver sa réputation ainsi qu’un montant de 100 000 $ en dommages-intérêts. Mais l’avocat du premier ministre a été clair mardi lors d’une requête présentée devant la cour: il entend prouver que le Conseil a bel et bien des liens avec le Hamas.

Mardi, les discussions ont tourné autour d’une demande de l’avocat du premier ministre, Peter Downard, d’avoir plus de temps pour interroger les intervenants, mais surtout d’avoir accès à plusieurs documents de la NCCM. Sa requête va de la liste des donateurs du groupe musulman à des informations sur certains de ses administrateurs, en passant par les documents liés au changement de nom du groupe (anciennement CAIR-CAN).

L’avocat de l’organisation, Jeff Saikaley, croit que ces documents ne sont pas pertinents à l’affaire, certains n’existant tout simplement pas, et il aimerait aller de l’avant avec le procès.

La juge de la Cour supérieure de l’Ontario Liza Sheard a réservé à plus tard sa décision sur l’affaire. Les deux parties devront s’armer de patience dans cette cause, puisqu’une autre requête devrait être entendue en novembre, et le procès comme tel risque de ne pas commencer avant plusieurs mois.

Une poursuite en diffamation contre Harper devant les tribunaux | Fannie Olivier | Actualités judiciaires.