State of Opportunity's first live call-in show aired today

Jul 11, 2012

Today, Michigan Radio's new State of Opportunity project aired the first of many live call-in shows and documentaries. 

In the hour-long show's first segment, State of Opportunity producers Dustin Dwyer and Jennifer Guerra sat down with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White to discuss the project.

JW: For someone who doesn't grow up in poverty, how can we understand what it really means, what it really looks like?

JG: That's a good question, and it's one that Dustin and I struggled with when we started the project, so in order to sort of get into the project, we asked ourselves, what's the best way to look at this, and we wanted to focus on kids.

Guerra then introduced a fictional child born into a low-income household, Jacob, in order to better understand the research and statistics on how life is different for babies like Jacob than for children born into families not in poverty.

In the second segment, Marya Sosulski, an associate professor at Michigan State University's School of Social Work, and University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Professor Sheldon Danziger joined Jennifer White to field questions from callers and social media followers about the perception of poverty in the state.

SD: We tend to think that anybody who works hard can get ahead, and so I think when we focus on adults who don't have any obvious disability, we think they should be pulling themselves up.

The problem is, this neglects the fact that over the past 30 years, it's gotten much, much more difficult to make it.

We used to live in a world in which a rising tide did lift all boats; someone could graduate high school, get a good job in a factory and support a family over time.  That's no longer the case. We live in the gilded age of inequality... 

We have a view about the poor that might have worked in the economy of 1960, but doesn't work in the economy of 2012.

In the show's last segment, Tim Ready, the director of the Lewis Walker Institute at Western Michigan University and Michigan Community Action Agency Association Executive Director Jim Crisp joined White to discuss possible solutions to the state's problems surrounding poverty.

TR: There's a lot of help that needs to be coming to Michigan families, especially in this economy... One of the things we're working on in Kalamazoo is engaging low-income families in particular as partners in this endeavor.

JW: Do you think Michigan has been doing enough, the state itself, in providing support for low-income families?

JC: The quick answer's no; the long answer is they try to do what they can. They have to measure all aspects of running a state government.  We feel, obviously, from our perspective, that more could be done. 

You can listen to the entire show on the media player above, and click the photo to peek behind-the-scenes at the live taping.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom