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Taking on poverty in Salinas

This week on Need to Know, correspondent John Larson sits down with Ann O’Leary, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and the director of the Children and Families Program at Next Generation in San Francisco.

In this extended web interview, O’Leary, an expert on poverty and employment, explains how she believes the best way to respond to entrenched poverty in the Salinas Latino community is by lessening barriers to higher education.

“Children who are born into poverty and live in poverty in their childhood… two-thirds of them are gonna stay in poverty or just above the poverty line in their adulthood. Unless they get an education,” she said. “Which is to say, get through college — get that college degree — which helps them get into the middle class.”

O’Leary notes that the poverty trends in Salinas may be an important case study for the United States as a whole, as shifting demographics create new challenges for policy makers across the country.

“What people don’t realize is that, in some sense, in California we’re already in the future. 70 percent of the kids in the California public schools are non-white. We have huge disparities, in terms of the educational outcomes — how our white kids do versus how our Hispanic children do,” she said.

“This is coming to the rest of the United States very soon. And we need to get serious and actually say that one of the ways we disrupt poverty, one of the sure ways to do it, is to provide these children with a good education.”

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