January 16, 2019
At the request of four U.S. senators, the Government Accountability Office has released a report on an oft-overlooked topic: the state of food insecurity across the nation’s campuses. While many schools do have food pantries on campus for students, the report shows food insecurity is a “real national problem.” It’s especially true among community college students—a troubling 42 to 56 percent of whom are food-insecure. There is both a lack of national data on the issue and a lack of education around the availability of benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for students. Of the students who quality for the program, 57 percent are not utilizing it. Researchers suggest devoting resources to disseminating information about SNAP to college students, and for the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to start including questions about food insecurity in their survey.
In addition to affecting federal departments, the ongoing government shutdown disproportionately impacts three major communities: people of color, women, and low-income people. While furloughed federal employees are guaranteed back pay once the shutdown ends, federal contractors—of which there are 5.3 million—will not receive any back pay at all. According to the Partnership for Public Service, Black people make up 18 percent of the federal workforce. On top of that, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) fund, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have all run out of money as a result of the shutdown, threatening the health and safety of multiple marginalized communities. Furthermore, 42 million Americans are at risk of not receiving their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits come February, which could result in low-income families going hungry, according to Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. As the shutdown continues, Rep. Barbara Lee of California says that “there are hundreds of thousands of families out there who are grappling with the anxiety, and really fear, of not being able to pay the bills…what’s happening here is President Trump is holding this government hostage and holding people hostage in order to get his useless, wasteful wall.”
Scholars are taking a closer look at New York City’s Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), the test that determines which middle schoolers are granted access to the city’s most selective public high schools. The patterns of bias observed in the test results mirror those of the SATs: Black and Latinx students, as well as girls of all races, consistently score lower than white boys. A recent study found that among high school boys and girls who scored the same on the test, girls consistently earned higher grades than boys. This suggests that the SHSAT underestimates girls’ ability and is generally a poor predictor of achievement. The next step for scholars is to find out why girls are scoring lower on these tests. One theory researchers have is that it’s a result of stereotype threat and subsequent risk aversion: “Even the brightest women may not perform at their best when they feel that they are in a stressful environment where women don’t traditionally succeed.” As a result, they may be less comfortable guessing if a wrong answer could reinforce negative stereotypes of ability, a concern white boys don’t usually have to deal with. The same theory applies to Black and Latinx students: when any student perceives bias regarding their abilities, their achievement can suffer.