Sheldon: And on behalf of the Ford School and the National Poverty Center I want to welcome you to today's talk. It's my privilege to introduce Katherine Newman. Katherine is a well known author and a scholar. Her current titles are Director of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Director of the Joint Doctoral Programs and Sociology Politics, Psychology and Social Policy, the Malcolm Steven Forbes class of 1941, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and there's something else.
Katherine Newman: That'll do it.
Sheldon: And the Director of the Global Network on Inequality at Princeton. Kathy is also well known as a mentor of young scholars in addition to setting up the joint doctoral program at Princeton. She set up a similar joint program at Harvard when she was there at the Kennedy School. While at Harvard she was also Dean of Social Science at Radcliff and obviously a Professor at the Kennedy School. And before that she was a Professor of Anthropology at Columbia. I first met Katherine in October of 1989 at a conference that I remember well. It was a conference that was designed to discuss William Julius Wilson's famous book, "The Truly Disadvantaged." And Katherine was an Assistant Professor who had a critique of Bill Wilson's book that Bill didn't like. [Laughter] And I came up to her after her presentation and I said, "I really enjoyed your talk. Would you come to Michigan the next year and give it in our seminar?" And she did and we've been colleagues ever since. And that early work led to maybe Kathy's most famous book, which is her 1999, "No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City." That book was followed recently by the book, "Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low Wage Labor Market." And those books focused on inner city workers in Harlem, who Kathy and her colleagues have followed over many years. Today Kathy's going to talk about her latest published book, "The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America" and there's some copies that are available for sale afterwards in the lobby. I should also note that Kathy has written many other books. One area outside of the poverty area, a book called, "Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings." And probably a true indicative of Kathy Newman's energy, her CV lists three books in progress, "Brothers' Keeper: The Limits of Social Solidarity from the New Deal to the Age of Inequality", "Failure to Launch: The Consequences of Delayed Departure from the Family Home in Western Europe, Japan and the United States" and "Risky Business: The Causes and Consequences of Employment in Security." So, over the years I've tried to have Kathy out as often as she's had new books, but lately she has more new books than I can get her to count. [Laughter] So, please welcome Kathy Newman.
Katherine Newman: [Applause] Well, thank you Sheldon. That was very kind. And I remember that conference where we met a great deal because I was the only person who was asked to write a critique of Bill Wilson's book. Everyone else was there to celebrate it and as you might imagine it was a bit of a daunting position to be in. And Sheldon came to my rescue by suggesting publicly that this critique was actually worth paying attention to. So, I've been eternally grateful to him ever since. What I'm going to try to do today is utterly impossible in the fifty minutes that we have. So, I'm going to try and get as far as I can, but I actually want to fuse all three of the books that I've done that look at people at the bottom of America's social structure. So, you will see that I actually for once had a method to my madness. Many of you will be familiar I know, with-- with the first of these books, which Sheldon already mentioned. "No Shame in My Game" that was my first crack at exploring the world of the low wage labor market. The working poor who were the subject of No Shame were not a particularly visible group in the literature on poverty when I first began working on it in the early 1990s. Welfare reform has pushed them into the limelight and so by the time I began I had already been working on this for a few years. The subject in a sense caught up to-- to my own research. What I was interested in there was the meaning of work, often quite menial work, in the lives of people who at that time the country really thought of almost entirely as welfare queens. And they could be forgiven for feeling that way since the social science literature and most of the journalistic accounts about poverty linked the concept of poverty to joblessness, including Bill Wilson's work. But, having long been a student of the world of work and something of a contrary in personality to boot, I was never really that taken by the debates over welfare policy and long term welfare recipients. My concern was with the people who were working, many of them full time and year round in jobs that just didn't pay enough to pull them above the poverty line. Their world, their ambitions, fulfilled and dashed interested me a whole lot more. So, "No Shame in My Game" tried to examine how they found work in the inner city, how they battled past the stigma associated with lousy jobs, what they learned in these so called no skill jobs, were these really jobs devoid of skill. How they managed their domestic life and shift work and most of all whether or not they saw the world that they live in through a racial lens, which many people argued they did and I thought they didn't. But, most of all I was interested in what would happen to people over time who entered the work world at the very bottom. In the kinds of jobs the modern American economy was producing in large numbers, minimum wage service sector jobs with very few options for the future. In the mid 90s when I began that research it was a period of very high unemployment. And in Central Harlem, the area where I did that field work, unemployment was really at catastrophic levels. It was about eighteen percent official unemployment. Over forty percent of the households were below poverty. And we had very high levels of public assistance recipiency. But, what I was really interested in there was in the midst of such a poor neighborhood, what would happen to people who actually took these crappy jobs and worked pretty hard at them, staying more than twice the length of the national average in jobs of that kind? What would happen to them when they tried to find better jobs? Were these jobs dead ends that didn't go anywhere? Or were they jobs that could potentially become the bottom rung in a job ladder? And the initial field work that I did, which lasted for about eighteen months, came back with a pretty bleak answer. They weren't going anywhere. They were stuck not for lack of trying by the way, because I followed them down to the job centers, down to the Civil Service exams as they would move from employer to employer in search of better jobs, but, they just couldn't get anybody to give a second look. They were in trouble because adults were flooding into the low wage jobs beating out teenagers who couldn't even compile a burger flipping track record. They were in trouble because as steadily employed people, they were already at the pinnacle of their own social networks. That is, they were better off than most of the people they knew. And those who had better jobs often would not give them the time of day as my former student Sandra Smith's work shows her new-- her most book, "Lone Pursuit." So, I had a very bleak picture, which I ended up Chutes-- "No Shame in My Game" with at the very end about what would happen to these people. But, when I returned for the first follow up study, I was absolutely stunned to discover how wrong I was. And that was the subject of "Chutes and Ladders" the second book in this series. And it basically provided all the evidence that I was totally wrong. So, in those first four years we saw pretty significant wage gains in this group, exceeding certainly my wildest expectations. Almost thirty percent of the workers and job seekers I studied had over five dollars increase in real wages. But, of course they were not the whole universe of experience. An equally large percentage had either lost wages or stagnated where I left them. The bad news was expected. The good news surprised me. And of course, we find here that it's not easy to know how representative they are, but nonetheless and I'm-- I'm going to get to the question of what I tried to do to answer the question of representativeness in a moment. But, these findings that there was a significant group of people who've done quite well were quite surprising to me. And they didn't just do well in terms of wages. You probably can't see this chart, but there were other important changes that occurred in their lives. Over half the people that I began studying in the mid 90s were over-- over the age of twenty five. So, this is beyond the period in which you would expect to see a lot of gains in education. Nonetheless, I saw significant increases in their education. So, at first-- the first time I contacted them about forty six percent had completed their GEDs. Among those who were working in 1993 by the time I caught up with them in 97 eighty two percent had completed their GEDs. An additional twenty percent had gotten some college education. About twenty three percent had gotten job training or vocational education. And a similar kind of track record among those who were what I called, "The rejects", the people who tried to get these entry level minimum wage jobs and did not succeed. I was very worried at the time I first began studying them that they would never be able to live on their own. They would not be able to move out their parent's households because one of the consequences of having a minimum wage job is you simply couldn't amass the resources necessary to live independently, but partly because of aging, partly because they were doing better economically. In fact, a much larger proportion were living on their own than I expected to find. And as they did better, the mean number of workers in their household grew and the number of people on AFDC declined a bit. So, there were other changes besides wage increases that looked to me like a smattering of good news. Now, when we-- when I went back for the third follow up, which is sort of what you can see on the far right hand side here, now you see the period that, you know, we think of as the Rubin era or the Clinton era depending on who you're rooting for these days after 1997. And you see even more substantial wage increases. You know, this didn't make these people rich, but it was not a-- again, not really what I expected. So, what you see here is-- in the pink line are those workers who started off on the shop floor of what I called Burger Barn. But, all of you will recognize as McDonalds who did not get more education in the succeeding eight years, but found their way into skilled, semi skilled-- and semi skilled jobs that were often unionized. So, their wages went up because they landed union jobs. And this is the group that experienced the greatest wage growth over time. The blue line represents people who also didn't get more education, but moved up often inside the firm where I first found them. And the yellow line represents the group that we all as traditional economists if I can include myself momentarily in that category would think would do better. These are people who got more education and left Burger Barn altogether for professional sales and clerical and service jobs. And they actually didn't do as well as-- in terms of wages as the-- those who found unionized jobs. But, in general, you know, this group was still moving up in ways that I found quite surprising. But, how representative, you know, is this? What can you do with this small sample I mean for a qualitative field worker it was a huge sample. But, for a sociologist or economist it's very small and hard to know how representative it is. We're talking about people living in the inner city in a poor neighborhood, an entirely minority population with these entry level jobs. To try and answer that question I persuaded a colleague of Sheldon's, Petter Gottschalk and his student Helen Connolly to help me with a study of the SIPP, which you're all more familiar with probably than I am. But, the SIPP survey has huge advantages for asking questions about whether or not a pattern like the one I discovered in my field work sample has any resemblance to national patterns of this kind. The SIPP survey is a representative longitudinal panel of about thirty thousand respondents, each of the panels last for about two to four years. There's a new panel that was started every year between 1984 and 1993. And respondents are interviewed every four months so their recall of the wage data is more likely to be accurate than people I had-- was contacting where four years went in between the contact. So, we used this SIPP survey to try and see whether or not the patterns I had seen were at all representative. And we did that by creating four SIPP samples and I'm not going to take time to describe how they were configured, but I should just tell you that everyone who fell into our sample was eighteen to forty years old when they were first observed. They lived in families that were one point five times the poverty line and below. So, they are all people who were in poor and near poor households to begin with. The jobs they held were hourly jobs and non managerial and the first observation of them comes after 1993. So, this is a nationally representative survey of people who were working in exactly the kinds of jobs I was looking at. These are food service workers in these poor households, minorities in cities. This is basically how we configured the sample. I'm not going to go through this. And here's what we found. And you can see the green line, it looks at the wage increases of my Harlem sample, the blue and the pink lines look at men and women nationally in the same kinds of occupations from very similar sorts of families. And just to make a long story short, the Harlem sample looks much better off in many, but the general trajectory's pretty similar. Workers like this from families like those were doing much better over this period of time in terms of annual wage growth than we expected. So, what-- how did they manage that? What was it that they-- especially those who were really moving up, how did they do that? And the reason I'm going through all this is to tell you how you end up in the condition of near poverty. Not poverty, but near poverty. What were the pathways toward a degree of upward mobility? At the highest levels of which you wouldn't be in the category, the near poor either. Well, there were four pathways that I'm going to talk about. The first is to land a unionized job that is a fairly still low skill, but much higher pay than the non-unionized version. And here for example, within the private sector we could talk about Adam, who was rejected for a job at Burger Barn when I first went to look for people. He got no education beyond high school, but he landed a job in a major shipping firm where he'd worked for five years by the time of our follow up and he topped put at about thirty five thousand dollars a year. And on that income he could support his family. Not in wealth by any means, but certainly better than one might have thought. And that was because it was a unionized job, or Pedro, who was a high school dropout who worked for Burger Barn when he first entered my study. He landed a job as a forklift driver in a warehouse, a sturdy blue collar job that again was unionized. And by the time I found him again was earning thirty three thousand dollars a year and had bought his first house in an outer suburb in an outer borough of New York. Those were private sector examples. A public sector example, if you remember, "No Shame in My Game" Kaiesha, one of my favorite characters in that book. Again, when I first met her she was operating the drive through window at Burger Barn. She was earning about five seventy five an hour after four years on the job, so virtually no reward for sticking with that job. She was a twenty two year old single mother whose own mother was a twenty six veteran of the public assistance system. She lived in a three generation household with a mother who looked after her son during her shift job. At the four year follow up in 1997, Kaeisha was still in the same space occupationally. She had not changed in terms of employment at all, but had finally climbed to the top of a wait list in the public housing system. But, she wasn't able to make use of it because by that time her mother had contracted a series of deadly illnesses and she was stuck having to take care of her mom and take care for-- take care of her child and work for a living. But, he was by now-- the child that is, enrolled in elementary school, which gave her some flexibility in terms of her work world. The interesting thing about Kaeisha and the reason why she represents a public sector success story is she took on a second job, which her mother helped her find, working around the public housing project where she grew up basically just doing janitorial work. But, eventually a real Civil Service job, the Holy Grail of almost every poor person I've met in the inner city opened up in her housing project. And she managed to land a Civil Service job, first doing just the same kind of janitorial work, but this is unionized with full benefits. And she was able to ride that job toward an income she never thought she would be able to boast of. So, by 2002 this woman who had been earning five dollars and forty five cents an hour only three years before was earning thirty eight thousand a year, living in her own apartment with her now ten year old son because that second job turned into a real unionized public sector job. So, one set of examples has to do with landing unionized jobs. A second kind of pathway to upward mobility involves internal mobility in a high growth firm. So, this is a prosperous period of time. We had very low unemployment. We had very high growth levels. And even firms like McDonalds were expanding. And as they expanded they were pulling people off the shop floor, people they knew and trusted. People like Latoya, who had worked on the line in the stores owned by the same guy who was expanding to other parts of Harlem. And when he wanted a manager, he picked her off the shop floor because there was an internal job chain developing in a high growth firm. Now, this is good news for someone like Latoya. It was really bad news in a sense for people who lived in the neighborhood of his firms opening up because he wouldn't take a chance on hiring somebody he didn't know in this new neighborhood for his firm. He was going to take somebody off the shop floor in another firm that he already knew, in another restaurant where he already knew her. So, it was good new for her, an internal chain opened up. It wasn't particularly good news for other residents in the area who-- who wouldn't be given the chance that she had been given. Finally we-- well, we have the sort of traditional version of upward mobility in which a human capital increase leads to a higher wage job. Laura, who was a single mother, age nineteen when I first met her, but who came along at a period in time in which the city of New York still permitted welfare recipients to go back to school and use that welfare stipend to invest in their own human capital. Who-- she had a daughter out of wedlock. She went back to school. She got some training in accounting. And by the time I found her at the first follow up she was working as a bookkeeper in the foundation that funded this research, quite amazing to me because we looked high and low for her and found her at the Russell Sage Foundation. Today she has a Masters degree and she works for the state of New York in the foster care system. But, she is an example of a human capital increase, in this case, that was funded by the welfare system. And by virtue of her training and the experience she got on the job she ends up with a much better job and a much more stable life. We have other examples of people who were able to do the same thing, but their funding so to speak for their human capital improvement comes not from the state, but from the resources of their own families. So, David was a-- a Haitian immigrant who came to New York who worked night and day in these lousy jobs in Burger Barn. But, because his family, his aunt and uncle were willing to pay for his upkeep he took every dimensional he earned and put it into a-- a certificate for refrigeration and air conditioning repair. And it took him three years and five thousand dollars to get that certificate, but by the time he had it he was able to land a job that paid three times as much as what he'd been earning in Burger Barn. So, that was a kind of family funded form of human capital increase. Finally, we have cases of upward mobility that don't involve any real change at all in the target workers status, but involve changes that effect the composition of a household. So, we have workers who remained in their low wage jobs, but they married someone else who brought in income into the household or were in long term cohabitation relationships or they changed the mix of workers to dependents by sending their children into the labor market, often a strategy for immigrant workers. Then there were finally people who I will-- I won't take the time to describe in detail who did exit the market, but found stable high wage partners. And so this is-- these are strategies that increase the economic standing and-- and stability of the households, but didn't advantage them particularly. These people are success stories. Some of them would be regarded as approximating the blue collar middle class, but most of them are not. Most of them are people who are above the poverty line, but in a group that suddenly came into visibility for me that I had never thought about and I would submit nobody has given much thought to, the people who in this third book I call the missing class. The missing class are the nations near poor. There are over fifty million of them. They are much larger in number than the nation's poor at thirty seven million. The over fifty million near poor households are those who earn twenty to forty thousand dollars a year or up to two hundred percent of the poverty line for a family of four. We don't think about these people very much. We don't think about them because they aren't part of the tracking system that we've used for decades now to understand whether we're doing better or worse on the poverty front. They don't belong in that category because they're not technically poor. Nor do we pay much attention to them because they're using public benefits because actually they don't. So, we-- when we get worried, when the nation gets worried about public benefit programs and their cost, these people don't factor in very much either because they earn to much for the most part to qualify for the public benefit programs that we think about. They're also working every hour that we've managed to invent and so they're not claiming very much of the public conversation. They're really to busy working and they often work more than one job so they're earnings rarely reflect-- or their income rarely reflects higher earnings. They are just putting in an enormous amount of time into the labor market in order to have the household incomes that they have. I'm going to try and run very quickly through these slides, but I wanted you just see-- if you look at that top line, these are the near poor. These are the one hundred to-- to two hundred percent of the nation's population who fall into this group. And you can see that they have long been a much larger group than anybody else. What are some of their characteristics? I just wanted to talk a little bit about the demography of the near poor and then conclude with some comments about their social experience. Well, first of all the elderly are-- so, when you look at this slide you can see on the left hand side the total population and then the next bar over are what we would call the very poor, those who are below fifty percent of the poverty line. Then, the next group over is fifty to hundred percent more or less to the poverty line and then the far right hand side are the nation's near poor, those who are between one hundred and two hundred percent of the poverty line. So, what can we say about the demography of that group and how it differs from the other groups that we sociologists think about when we talk about low income populations. Well, first of all the elderly are relatively unlikely to be among the poorest of the poor and that reflects the Social Security system. For all three groups the largest share of members are those who are the prime working age, eighteen to sixty four years old. Children are as you won't be surprised to hear because you study this a lot here in the Ford School, likely to be among the poorest rather than in the missing class. Nonetheless, about twenty percent of the nation's children are in this category of the near poor. And that is not a trivial number of people. In terms of race, what we see here is that poverty rates among Hispanics declined a bit over the ten year period that I was interested in this question. While the rates of Hispanic near poverty didn't change very much, it's just worth noting how large a proportion of the near poor are Hispanic or more to the point, how-- what-- how large a proportion of Hispanics are in this near poor category. African American rates of near poverty hover around fifteen percent, which is actually lower than I expected but not trivial either. You won't be surprised to discover that female headed households are hugely represented among the nation's poor population, but they are not a trivial proportion of the near poor. They-- they range around thirty percent of the near poor population. Labor force participation, among the poorer subgroup, that is those who are below the poverty line, full time year round work is-- runs at about fifteen to eighteen percent, something like that. It's far more common, full time year round work is far more common among the near poor or the missing class. About thirty five to forty five percent of missing class households are headed by full time year round workers. In terms of public assistance we see very large differences and I don't just mean public assistance in terms of welfare, but public benefit programs. Here's where we start to see a big difference in how social policy provides or doesn't provide for the nation's low income families. Missing class kids are far, far less likely to live in households where someone was covered by Medicaid, they are fewer than one fifth of missing class kids receive-- are in households that receive food stamps. Less than one tenth are in households where means tested cash assistance is received. And less of-- less than fifty percent of missing class kids live in households that receive public assistance of any kind excluding school lunches. And so, there is a huge divide and when I say we don't think about these people very much, this is one of the ways in which we don't think about them or don't include them. In terms of educational attainment, members of the missing class are more likely to have completed high school and some college than those who are below the poverty line. And that's an important reason why they are missing class rather than absolutely poor. Okay with that, that's a like run through of the demography. Let me talk about some of the sociological features of the missing class and why I find them interesting and important to think about. The-- the field work for this book took place in a series of four New York neighborhoods, Clinton Hill, Fort Green and Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Washington Heights in Manhattan for those of you who know the New York landscape. These neighborhoods have experienced very dramatic changes in the last thirty years or so. Like many other urban areas in the United States they saw rising rates of drug use and crime in the 70s and 80s and a period of really rapid decline. And the middle class tended to flee from those neighborhoods during this time. So, they were in pretty dire states by the mid 1990s, but the boom years that began to pick up in the late 90s brought a different panorama of people to near poor neighborhoods. Real estate investment coming back into the cities, the economy is growing; it's overheating in the highest rent districts of place like Manhattan and spilling over to these outer borough neighborhoods where the near poor lived in large numbers. So, what we tended to see in these neighborhoods is a kind of rising integration drawn by two different forces. The first is integration by gentrification. So, as these overheated real estate markets are spilling out into these neighborhoods, young urban professionals who can't afford the highest rent neighborhoods start looking for spots in [Inaudible]. And this leads to a very pronounced socioeconomic and sometimes racial integration in these neighborhoods. But, it's an uncertain kind of integration because the near poor families if they're not in secure housing, if they're not in public housing or rent stabilized housing are in-- at great risk of being displaced altogether because they can't compete against these richer newcomers. And we saw this trend in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill and the Northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, which as I said, "Were once real epicenters of drug selling and crime." By the late 1990s these are becoming really hard neighborhoods to afford and many low income residents are being pushed out of them. Now, this means that for the near poor who can stay in those neighborhoods, who are not ejected because they do have secure housing the problem is less absolute deprivation and more the specter of relative deprivation, which is not an issue we think about very much when we're talking about poverty. The near poor were doing better than they had before, but they're doing worse in comparison to these newcomers. They feel the distance between their neighbors in more pronounced ways than they did before. So, gentrification has many positive aspects to it, but it also has some negatives. On the positive side the near poor are seeing politicians and the police pay a lot more attention to their neighborhoods. Safety suddenly becomes an issue that everybody's thinking about because those new richer people who've moved in are making demands that the powers that be are listening to more than they did when those neighborhoods were inhabited by the poor who were victimized by crime. The schools are getting better, there's a greater investment in transportation structures and other forms of infrastructure. So, if you're able to stay in that neighborhood as a near poor family you are now living in a better neighborhood than you've ever lived in before, if you're still there. But, it also leads to some degree of resentment and a certain kind of psychological uneasiness among the old timers who don't really feel like that neighborhood belongs to them in the same way that it did when they knew everyone on the block. So, they're sort of geographically stuck between richer and poorer areas, close enough for yuppies to move in, but close enough also for the poorer neighborhoods adjacent to them to still cause problems that spill over into their lives so, integration through gentrification. We also saw in the neighborhoods integration through immigration. Near poor neighborhoods that were previously dominated by one ethnic group became integrated by virtue of the arrival of new immigrants. The newcomers here are coming from Mexico for example, which was not a big source of immigration to New York City. The increasing new generations of Dominicans, the Puerto Rican immigration wasn't by that time quite mature. And these ethnic enclaves that need more space to grow because more people are headed into the area, starts staking out territories and turfs that become rather tense because there's a lot of competition over this space. This is a situation that we saw in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, which used to be Irish, Polish and Scandinavian. Those folks moved out to the suburbs and were replaced by Puerto Ricans who were in the majority by the 1980s. Now, the Puerto Ricans are being replaced by Mexicans, by Chinese immigrants, Dominicans, Hasidic Jews, Pakistanis and others. So, Sunset Park has become a magnet of new immigrants and that makes it a much more vital place in many ways, but it also makes it a place in which there's tension over-- over not only employment opportunities, but over actual physical space. Another-- so, we see a kind of decline in neighborhood segregation, but a certain degree of tension that goes with it. Another problem that I found interesting and if not unique by any means to the-- to the near poor, a problem we tend not to think about in their-- in their lives. And that is increased consumption financed by debt. The near poor, many of whom used to be really poor and are basically upwardly mobile from that state of existence want a higher standard of living. And they think they should be able to live a better life. They don't want to sit on a couch shot through with holes, not when they're working fantastic hours every week to try and keep their families above that poverty line, but their incomes have not risen as high as their tastes and there-- it's just insufficient to finance a better life. At the same time, the deregulation of the credit card industry means that they are being besieged by offers for what appear to be free money practically. They're also very unlikely to be served by conventional financial institutions, so the credit cards arriving on the doorstep and the traditional bank is certainly no where to be found. Twenty eight million Americans do not have bank accounts and those people are almost entirely poor and near poor households. More than forty million Americans have low credit scores or no credit score and again, they just proportionately fall into the group that I'm talking about today. The near poor stay away from banks in part because they don't trust them. Immigrants stay away because they're accustomed to private sources of capital including rotating savings pools and the like. But, banks also tend to discourage near poor customers. Major banks have closed entirely their brick and mortar branches in near poor neighborhoods. They encourage people to move into online banking, but you only get online banking if you know how to use computers and have them easily accessible to you. To give you an example of the mismatch, the near poor neighborhood of Washington Heights has fifteen bank branches. East mid town has more than three hundred. And the number of bank branches in Washington Heights has just dwindled down to nearly nothing over the years. When that happens, banks are not particularly eager to attract these customers, they've now got very high costs of doing business if they're not doing very much of it. So, they charge these customers huge amounts to operate these services. So, without bank accounts near poor families have to spend a few bucks every time they want to pay a bill by a money order. To get the money out of their paychecks, near poor workers often turn to check cashing outlets, which charge fees. In New York those fees are limited to one and a half percent of the face value of the check, but in nineteen other states there are no limits whatsoever to what an institute-- a payday lender can charge to cash a check. Besides the higher fees from cashing checks, the problem with not having a bank account is you don't establish any kind of credit rating and you can't apply for a conventional loan and that pushes you into the predatory lending market about which we have heard so much in recent months. It's also very difficult to accumulate assets. And assets are incredibly important to all American families. For most American families there key asset is their home. Forty four percent of all U.S. wealth comes from housing equity. Owning a home provides financial stability by allowing families to borrow against its value as long as it's increasing. Of course that's-- it's not in many parts of the country at the moment, but in general it's a very vital bank account of its own kind. But, the near poor tend not to be in that market. If they are, they're the elderly near poor who've owned these homes for a long time and whose incomes have declined to the level that places them in near poverty. But, if they're going to own a home at all they're probably forced into the sub prime lending market and the family who I begin to book with is a text book case of a family that lost the home due to the predatory lending practices in the sub prime lending market. And of course this is-- goes hand and hand with lack of financial literacy. The near poor families that we studied don't really understand as many Americans don't understand what the paperwork is that they have signed when they've signed on to these loans. They don't realize that they've signed away their rights to hold on to this equity if they miss a single payment. And the story of the Floyd family, which opens this book, is the story of a family that lost its one most important asset. The only thing they would have been able to pass down to the next generation because they signed paperwork because they couldn't afford to repair the roof of that house. And they thought they were going to be able to repair that roof and instead the first missed payment and they lost the house altogether. So, today the Floyd family lives, nine of them, in a one bedroom apartment and they can look across the street and see that house that they lost, the only asset in their family. Or I can speak about Julia Coronado, one of the most successful of my interview subjects who was also once a welfare recipient, but who-- smart woman, went back to school again funded by the welfare system, managed to get herself a job in a doctors office redesigned the entire system for booking patients. She's now an absolutely crucial part of this doctor's office and she earns about thirty five thousand dollars a year, which for the family of five she has to support puts them pretty squarely inside the missing class. Julia got really tired of being poor and not being able to show any-- show for any kind of creature comforts to her family. So, she racked up nine thousand dollars in credit card debt and was just paying minimum balances through the entire time that I-- six years in which I was doing field work for this book. And those of you who know anything about credit cards know that is the most expensive way you can possibly buy anything. And so, this is not uncommon among near poor households to increase consumption financed by debt. Another important problem of the near poor, which happens to many other families as well, is horrendous work family time binds. Again as I mentioned, these are people who are working many hours a week in order to stay above the poverty line. This may well lead-- and this is a point I wanted to make more generally for the policy audience school. What drove these people into the labor market was primarily the rising wages of the late 1990s and the early part of the decade we're still in. And this most definitely benefited these households in terms of their economic stability, they are in far better shape than they were in before, but it has come at the cost of the time they had with their children. At the very same point in our history another crowd of policy wonks and conservatives brought us the No Child Left Behind Act, which has ramped up the pressure on young children in school. And that pressure cannot be absorbed by the schools they go to alone. The-- the schools are depending on parents including these kinds of parents to try and help these kids over those high sticks-- stakes testing hurdles. So, in the households we studied constant notices are coming home from the elementary schools, be sure you take Johnny to the library. We want to see the six books you had him read. You need to check over his spelling. Basically parents are being asked to be an auxiliary teaching labor force because the schools can't pull kids over these hurdles by themselves. But, these parents are in the labor market. They're commuting ninety minutes to New Jersey to pack perfume bottles. They don't get home till seven thirty at night and they're completely exhausted by the time they get there. They're also not high in human capital themselves. The truth of the matter is before their kids were put under these pressures about the most they could have done was to be sure the kids had their books open, were actually doing their homework, but now they can't even do that. They wouldn't have known whether or not the homework was being done adequately, but they would have been able to see that it was being done at all. This is not possible so much anymore. So, we see in our study young children who are starting to be held back. If you're held back in third grade, the chances that you will become a high school dropout skyrocket. And this is at least in part, not wholly by any means, but at least in part due to this strain between managing your life as an adult worker and needing to work that many hours and the inadequacies of the school system in these neighborhoods to rise to the level that is demanded by No Child Left Behind. That is what is happening increasingly in near poor neighborhoods we see skyrocketing rates of kids being held back in school. Their older siblings are experiencing something equally devastating, possibly even worse. Now, it's not so much about No Child Left Behind, it's about unsupervised teenagers whose parents aren't around in the afternoon after school lets out and who don't have after school programs to keep them occupied and off the streets. And because they are adjacent to poor neighborhoods there's a lot of trouble that they can get into. So, the book chronicles the story of several teenagers who we followed through this six year period who were doing reasonably well when their parents were around and end up on Rikers Island by the end of the book having gone off the deep end. So, what worries me about this is as follows. If we solve the poverty problem by making it possible for people to pull above the poverty line through their own hard work in their adult lives, then there is something to celebrate and they feel that way. The working-- the near poor actually feel quite optimistic in general about their own adult lives. But, if we see a repetition of the poverty trajectory in their kids because they've fallen behind in school, because they've been unsupervised in the afternoon we may have solved this problem if we want to call it that, just for one generation only to see it reappear in the lives of their children. And that is going to continue to be the case if we don't invest as a nation in the infrastructure it takes to level the playing field between families and not make the fate of those children so heavily dependant as it is now on what their parents alone can do for them. Well, I know that I need to wrap up and I've got, you know, probably another half an hours worth of things I wanted to tell you about these people. So, let me just try and speed through this. Context matters a lot. Extremely tight labor markets, unprecedented growth is part of what produced the near poor and pulled people off the floor below the poverty line up into the group I'm talking about, which despite all the problems I've mentioned are vastly better off. And they would tell you them-- themselves that if they were here. Vastly better off than they were before. And that was made possible by very tight labor markets and unprecedented growth. It was made possible by the fact that unionized jobs were still available. It was made possible by socialized investment in the form of welfare policies that permitted people to meet their work requirements by going to school. All of these things can change, many of them already have. We abandoned the policy that permitted the people to go to school on welfare and put them into work first programs, which made the kind of mobility that say Laura, experienced almost impossible to achieve. Unionized jobs are shrinking, you know, everyday especially in the private sector and that pathway, which-- that pathway to mobility will be closed off if workers have less clout in bargaining. And extremely tight labor markets, I don't need to tell you in Michigan that that too is highly contextual. It-- it doesn't exist everywhere. It didn't exist everywhere even in good times and it's certainly not a permanent feature of our lives even now. So, that context can change. Labor markets can become lax, unions can be busted or closed down and welfare policy can move in a different direction. Let me just conclude with a few thoughts about the kinds of policy-- this is the obligatory final policy chapter of every book of this kind. Some of the policies that I think are particularly important for the near poor as opposed to those below the poverty line, first asset development and protection. The near poor need to be part of what all the rest of us need too, which is a re-regulation of credit markets. The kind of deregulation that we've experienced, which made credit widely available to people who really couldn't afford it at quite this level has been pretty devastating. And we're going to see a big shrinkage in the proportion of the nation's minority households that are homeowners. We've seen it already, in the next year it's going to fall even lower because they are the victims of predatory lending. So, consumer education is important as well. Low income home ownership, not always a good idea and not always for everybody, but, in general if we are choosing between leaving people at the mercy of private landlords and-- or even the public housing system and offering them what the sixty eight percent of the rest of the country has, which is an asset that in general most of the time is growing investing in low income home ownership possibility strikes me as an important way of providing a safety net and asset for near poor families. Education, early childhood education is far-- is-- is clearly an important feature for both the near poor and the real poor because their families alone are not going to be able to protect them from the difficulties in the education system; academic, after school and summer school to prevent this falling behind and to provide more wholesome if you will opportunities for engagement in the hours when their parents cannot supervise them. Affordability of higher education as I showed you before, people were funding their own higher education if they could by working in places like Burger Barn, but they could only do that if someone else could cover their expenses because higher education is becoming less and less affordable all the time. Environmental investment, I did not get a chance to talk about the healthcare issues, but they're legion. And they're legion in part because these people live in neighborhoods that are crumbling. They're not crumbling as badly by any means as the solidly, densely poor neighborhoods, but they too are living in apartments infested with lead paint. Asthma is a serious problem in these neighborhoods and there are examples in this book of kids whose educational trajectories have been derailed by asthma, which is not being treated. They do tend to be outside entirely of the Federal Low Income health care coverage. If they have private healthcare, it tends to be poor healthcare. It's not zero healthcare, but it's what I call weakly insured, which means they're covered for catastrophic illnesses, but not for the kind of medical access that's needed to prevent a catastrophe from getting much, much worse therefore more expensive to treat and much harder to cure. This is the group for whom the SCHIP Bill would have been of enormous benefit and I don't think we've heard the last of it. I hope not. If the elections go to the way they-- the way they should, hopefully this will come thundering back. But this is the group that needed SCHIP more than anyone, because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and they don't work for employers that provide very much health insurance or high quality health insurance and the parents are uncovered altogether. So, they have zero assets to health care for the most part, unless they impoverish themselves and become eligible for Medicaid. And finally job ladders, we need to find in tight economic circumstances like the ones I described before, job ladders develop because employers are searching for workers and they do what this employer did for Latoya, moved her off the shop floor into a new managerial position when they were expanding. So expansion and tight labor markets really helps to produce job ladders is a sort of natural way if you will, but lacking that, returning to the question of how we help to engineer job ladders would be hugely important for the missing class. Let me stop there and take any questions that I can manage to answer. Thank you for your interest.
Sheldon: If anyone has a question would you go to the mike because this is being taped?
Not a one? I've solved the whole problem?
Thank you for coming and embracing us with your passion. It was a pleasure.
Katherine Newman: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Your presence. My question for you, to what extent-- this microphone is too low, to what extent?
Katherine Newman: Or you're too tall. [Laughter]
I'm too tall. To what extent does our conversation that you're trying to start and-- and push us towards thinking about-- to what extent does this change the obligations that we have towards the poor-- kind of what do we-- what are our goals here when we talk about reducing poverty and-- and I think you're book raises some questions on that. Should we be asking more of ourselves, of government to not stop at just the poor, to do something else?
Katherine Newman: That is an excellent question and it's one you know that we need to answer as a society, not just as social scientists. And I have several views on this. One is that I think policy successes are very helpful in inspiring confidence that we can do something about problems for low income households and we are probably more likely to be able to do impressive things for this group. It's-- this is not to diminish in any way the needs of those below the poverty line. It is to say that if we're able to insure the mobility of the near poor and keep them moving up or at least not falling back down we set some examples of successes that are sadly rare and I think successes are terribly important in inspiring a sense of efficacy by the general public in the capacity of government and private industry to do anything about the problems of those at the bottom of the social structure. I certainly don't think it in any way removes our obligations to addressing the problems of those below the poverty line, like having written a great deal about the real poor. I feel just as strongly about our obligations to the real poor, but I also think one way to help fulfill them is by moving people off that floor, by opening up new spaces up above them in the food chain, so that there is some reason for those below the poverty line as most of these people were at one time, to think they have options for the future that aren't just more of the same. These are hugely consequential political questions. So, I think we need to change the way we talk about this issue and whenever I do radio or television programs I try and-- and do this by speaking about this is investment. This is investment in the nation's human capital. This is not government charity. This is about-- this is as powerful and important as building roads or building bridges. It's investment in the nation's human capital and productivity. And, we refuse to do so at our peril. No country can afford to have-- if you add this up we're talking about nearly 90 million people who are below the near poverty line. That's a big drag on our economy not to mention a very difficult time for those families themselves. But, this is a matter of national priority for investment and infrastructure in human capital. That's the way I think about it. I also think as I said, we're more likely to see success stories aiming at this group.
Luckily for me this is the right height for me, so... [Laughter] what I was going to ask I have kind of a two part question. The first part of it was we're talking about this economic structure, this system that we have in place not only in America but in most of the western industrialized countries I suppose. And this is a capitalistic system whereby five to seven percent is assumed unemployed and the best of-- the best hopes that we have for this system are creating more and more low wage jobs rather than better jobs in that sense. And so I guess what I'm wondering is how much of this conversation that we're having within the system, within the parameters of the system create, that we currently have is beneficial in the sense that it's not changing, the basic system that we have.
Katherine Newman: That is a very fair question and it's one on which many of my dear friends and colleagues who were further to the left than I am disagree with me. Not because I wouldn't share those goals, but because I don't think it's realistic. I mean I've never seen the benefit for social scientists, at least not for me to predicate improvement on revolution-- it's not-- I don't see it happening and its certainly not going to happen in the lifetimes of people I've been studying who really need solutions now, not major transformations whose likelihood is almost infinitesimal, I'm afraid. So, it's not that I don't think it would be beneficial if we weren't running an economy that in a sense depending on having a significant proportion of people unemployed, but it's the sense that our-- that the best way we can manage right now is incremental reform of the kind that will have more immediate benefits to these people, and they're the people that I worry about. Maybe that's short sighted of me, but having come to know them as well as I did, telling them that someday maybe there would be a totally different economic structure that would be better for their families, really doesn't cut much ice with them. They need to know tomorrow how are they going to be able to do better? So, I am really talking about and advocating changes in reforms that are genuinely incremental and reformist. They are not a total overhaul of the economic system and I certainly recognize that. That said there are real variations over time and what that system can produce. When we look at states like Massachusetts in the late 1990's or even New York City in the early part of this decade, we had record low unemployment. We had record high growth. We had virtually no inflation. It is-- I mean it was such an extraordinary period that many of my economist friends are sort of scratching their heads because their theories told them that this should be a hugely inflationary period with such tight labor markets, and it wasn't. This tells us there are possibilities beyond accepting the limits that you were just spelling out. There are real possibilities; maybe they only happen in extraordinary times but actually are SIPP analysis shows that even in periods not as roaring high growth as the late 90's we still saw significant movement upward from these kinds of low-- low wage jobs, significant wage increases even in periods that were troughs in the economic system. Not as high as when you have tight unemployment markets, but much better than even I expected, so that's the best I can do. And it is a philosophical debate that I have all the time with people who are in my end of the social sciences who also think that we should dwell much more on what would a massive transformation really look like. I'm just too worried about these people tomorrow. Uh huh?
The question was--
You know I thought that the-- the examples you gave about how people advance, that you wrote up in Chutes and Ladders hit on a couple of interesting things about regional differences and what you would have seen if you were looking someplace besides New York, which has a very high unionization rate, fairly liberal policies. I wanted to ask a question about what you thought might stimulate job ladders within-- within companies because that's a major problem at Burger Barn and a lot of other things and it's the one area where I'm not sure where you see-- unless you're talking on incentives for training and that sort of thing. I'd like to also-- you might want to have something in terms of the policies dealing with the problems of unionization in this country and the restrictions and the way it's kind of tilted-- tilted away from creating new unions that could be viable. In the book I go into that into great length but you're absolutely right, with a little extra time I would have talked about that more. Because you're right, we took the playing field in exactly the opposite direction. We make it-- all you have to do-- if you have a chance to read my former student's book Dan Zuberi's book, "Differences That Matter", what Dan does is look at low wage workers in exactly the same firms who straddle the U.S. Canadian Border. So, they have the same jobs for the same firms and the only-- and in Seattle and in Vancouver, which are very similar cities in terms of immigration, racial composition and so on and what you see is a completely different standard of living for people at the bottom of the hotel industry in Vancouver compared to Seattle and the social policy regime is what's make a difference and unionization rates are vastly higher, even in Canada that's more conservative then it used to be. So, I-- I do accept your point. So, what can we do about job ladders? Well, the first point I would make is one that I think often gets lost or that I tried to make in Chutes and Ladders and that is jobs widely identified as dead-ends aren't always dead ends. The economy really matters. If you're in a tight labor market the same job that looks like a dead end in a lax labor market can become a stepping stone, because employers just have to search harder. And they will accept that experience when they can't find the people who look more like the ones they used to look for when filling up those job queues. So, I think we-- we've been mistaken in thinking from the dual labor market tradition onward that we know what a dead end job looks like, because it isn't always. It is often, but it isn't always the kind of jobs where I found these people. They can become stepping stones under certain economic conditions, but obviously they were extraordinary conditions. So, what can we do about job ladders? Here, as a shorthand, I would recommend reading Joan Fitzgerald's most recent book, because she deals with this in some-- some detail. And basically what she argues is that industries with labor shortages, for example nursing, that's where we have the greatest potential for on-the-job training that will create internal labor markets and job ladders where its to the employer's benefit to invest in worker training, because there's a shortage of labor. So, it obviously is not going to attract employer investment unless there are somewhat extraordinary circumstances, but there are. There are such pockets and in high growth biotech in you now teaching the new basic skills were named in Levy's book, there were examples there too where internal investment in the creation of job ladders is facilitated by internal investment in training. What I do that I tried to articulate in the very first book in, "No Shame in my Game." It had to do with employer consortium. So, the idea here was that most employers who have better jobs to offer, obviously they're better jobs that require more skill and therefore they represent a bigger investment on the part of the firm in that worker. So, if you've made a mistake, you hired the wrong person, you've now wasted resources that actually hurt the firm. How do you know if you've made a mistake? Well, when I interview employers who have jobs that really do require this, they actually don't have very good ways of looking who's coming in the door and saying, "Is this a good bet, or not?" Supposing they actually knew the employers who were in a sense handing off those workers at the entry level? Supposing there actually was kind of like a hiring haul system in which you could connect the employer with a better job to the employer with the worst job and remunerate that employer with the worst job for losing their best labor. You'd have remunerated them to some degree by letting-- you know to let go of that worker. But for the employer with a better job or an offer, you've got more information that's reliable because they know this employer down below them. And they've got a better way of assessing whether or not choosing this person is going to merit that six month investment in I don't know, boiler technician training. This came to me because when I finished up no shame in my game, some of the people that I studied you know came to me and asked could I help them find work, and I suddenly realized I was one of those nodes. So, I went to at that time Columbia's huge massive bureaucracy that runs this apartment-- the third largest landlord in the city of New York where there are boilers, there are doormen, there are all kinds of jobs that require relatively minimal training, but they're not zero and making a mistake is costly in many ways. And I asked Columbia administration what would you do-- how would it improve things if you had better ways of judging who you were hiring, if you actually knew the employers who were in a sense recommending people up this food chain and they jumped at the idea and actually created a local employer consortium to try and do that. Now, that's not a solution that many economists find attractive because it requires coordination, but it's not very costly really, when you think about it. It-- it saves a lot for the employer up the food chain not to be making those mistakes. Better school to work transition systems will help with the job ladder system, because if workers have skills, are being trained in skills that are actually useful instead of obsolete, which is what happens in many of our cheap training programs, it will facilitate their ability to move up internally. It's a complicated issue. I-- I don't pretend to have all the solutions and I think what was most striking to me was how job ladders appeared naturally so to speak when you had these record low unemployment levels. Yea?
So, [Inaudible] in your poor people that you did your ethnographic work with, were they frustrated and burned out? Were they proud or--
Katherine Newman: They were very proud. And that's part of what I found so striking about them. They were very proud of their accomplishments. They really saw themselves as significantly better off than they had been before. In terms of their own adult lives, they were worried about what was going to become of their kids. They could see their kids going off the rails. But, I will tell you one ethnographic example, a woman named Danielle who really stands out in my mind in answer to your question. When I first met her, she was a clinically depressed Welfare recipient with three children having tried to escape an abusive marriage. I mean it was a terrible situation. She was cooped up with kids all the time and had no confidence in herself or her ability to do anything for her family. She was a very dedicated mother. She was heavily involved in her kids' school. She did take them to the library every day and she used to show me these racks of gold stars that her kids, everytime they read a book the librarians would certify that they had done so. So, the advantage of being around the home was that she could monitor her kids' education and make sure they go the best teachers. She was volunteering for the PTA all the time. But, in terms of her own sense of her self-efficacy, it was about as low as it could go. She was pushed into the work world by virtual Welfare reform. She is definitely one of those cases who probably would not have changed the parameters very much, had she not had no choice. But over the six years that I studied that family, she landed this job. First it was a WEP job, then she was hired by the Human Resources Administration by the City of New York. By the time I ended this book, she was glowing. She had a job she was proud of. It was-- she had pictures of her kids on her desk. She would get up every morning, dress, get on the subway like every other adult in New York City with that sense of self-respect that comes with working. Now what about her kids? Her youngest child who she put in family daycare had a vocabulary of about two words by the age of three, "No" and "Shut up." That's literally all this child could say every time I came, "No, shut up" and you had to ask yourself what was she hearing all day long? In this childcare setting that I visited with drug addicts wandering in and out, that was the most this mother could afford. Being a near poor mother means your kids are going to be subjected to a crappy childcare system which will not advantage them. When that child entered kindergarten she didn't know her numbers. She didn't know her letters. She was way behind and that certainly was not going to help her very much. The older kids in that family who had benefitted from their mother's presence and vigilance in the schools were doing much, much better, but we'll see as they enter teenagehood and she's not there for them. We tend to think, I think in the policy world that a policy that seems to have benefits is good for everyone, but that really may not be the case. A policy that worked for the adult in the household may well have condemned the next generation in that household to a very different trajectory than the one the mother has experienced. But in terms of her mood and optimism and sense of self-efficacy there was no comparison.
Hi. Thank you.
Katherine Newman: Hi. My pleasure.
I was just wondering what you thought about the tougher bankruptcy laws?
Katherine Newman: That's a good question and I-- again I discuss that in the book. The tougher bankruptcy laws have definitely made life harder for these families because they can't shelter any assets at all. The bankruptcy transformation basically stripped consumers of most of the rights they had before to protect any assets under conditions of bankruptcy. And again, that's sort of a close cousin of the predatory lending system. All the way around this is an attack on the assets of poor and near poor households and its-- its going to really wreck havoc with these families. Now, that said you know a lot of conservatives when they hear this story say, "Well, they need to learn to live on their means." But, one of the things being near poor does it makes it very difficult to do that. There means are not very, they're better than being poor, but they're not much better. They're not vastly better. They're still extremely vulnerable, especially if one income disappears from that household. That alone can plunge them down below the poverty line and if the credit card is sitting there as a possible instrument of rescue or it looks like an instrument of rescue, especially for medical bills, which is the prime-- the prime reason that American consumers are pushed into bankruptcy is not buying a Lexus. It's by paying a medical bill. That's actually the biggest reason for people going into bankruptcy is medical bills they can't pay. So, you know those protections were important to the near poor and that-- as I said they're flooded with opportunities to take out credit cards. The woman that I mentioned had nine thousand-- had eighteen credit cards and no real understanding of what it was costing her to buy things this way to pay that minimum payment and she will undoubtedly find herself in bankruptcy trouble at some point if that continued.
[Inaudible background comment]
Katherine Newman: Also too tall. [Laughter] I just wanted to pick up on a couple of things here, the sort of the mood and pride issue and also sort of the, I don't know financial literacy issues. To what extent are the low numbers that you put up about public benefit receipt for these near poor folks? Is that a matter of ineligibility or--
Katherine Newman: Or uptake?
Or not take up but also just I wonder to what extent those figures reflect their income tax credit, which would seem to be focused on these folks directly.
Katherine Newman: It does to some degree, by the way hi Dan. It's good to see you again. And I owe Dan a note of gratitude here, because there's a long section at the end of the book that is about things like individual development accounts, which I first was exposed to when Dan wrote his master's thesis at the Kennedy School under my supervision. I'm very proud of the work he did, which won a big prize. This is ancient history for him now, but in any case. So, it partly reflects ineligibility. They just exceed those income limits and they are remarkably low limits really. Even the earned income tax credit is phasing out when you get into this group. I mean toward the higher reaches of this group and increasing and enriching the earned income tax credit is probably the most efficient thing we could do to put more money in the hands of these people. They did-- there are take up problems, however. Those who are eligible for SCHIP weren't always registered for it. And this reflects a certain kind of fear that they have of bureau-- most of them have had experience-- really unpleasant experience with the welfare system with intrusive forms of bureaucracy and also if you're working hours and hours around the clock, you don't have time for the bureaucracy that it requires to sign up if it would be beneficial, and also ignorant of what is out there and available to you. So, it is-- it is a combination of these-- of these things ineligibility and ignorance sometimes of what's out there.
Sheldon: Thank you very much. There's a reception and book signing in the lobby.
Katherine Newman: Thank you everyone. [Applause]
Sheldon: Dan was a student of yours.
Katherine Newman: Yea.
- See more at: http://old.fordschool.umich.edu/events/calendar/75/#sthash.ozK611CW.dpuf