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Social network research and social work macro practice

Netting and Kettner (1998) review the notion of community as applied to social work macro practice. Citing Felin (1995) they explain that community occurs when “a group of people form a social unit based on common location, interest, identification, culture and/or activities”. They then outline 3 types of communities (1) geographic or place-based, (2) functional based on identification / interest, and (3) personal/social networks. Methods to understand social networks have advanced considerably since the late 1990s. Nicholas Christakis is a leader of social network analysis. I found the following figure from a recent paper in Annals of Internal Medicine.

There is tremendous opportunity to apply these analytical techniques to understanding community development and social work macro practice.

Drinking in the Framingham Heart Study social network in 2000

Dazinger – The Mismeasure of Poverty

In the following article, Sheldon Dazinger explains how a limited measure of poverty skews our perception of the degree of poverty in the United States.  He argues for the use of a measure that incorporates anti-poverty policies in order to provide evidence of the success of the “safety net” in reducing poverty overtime.  In addition, Dazinger explains that economic growth has done little to alleviate poverty in the last few decades.  Growth has not reached the poor because of high levels of inequality and the concentration of growth at the highest end of the income distribution.  He argues for an increase of the minimum wage to begin correcting this.


World maps with visuals


See #12

Week 5 Memo questions

### Week 5 ###
1. Netting and Kettner review definitions of community, community structure and functions, models of community practice, etc. From the chapter, what is one conclusion that you draw? What questions remain for you about community practice to address poverty?
2. L. Botes and D. Van Rensburg outline nine plagues and twelve commandments. Rank your top 2 plagues or commandments and explain in detail why they are important to your model of development?

Week 4 Memo Questions

## Week 4 ##
1. McKnight provides the iatrogenic argument, i.e., that diagnosis/treatment is causing the problem; helpers are actually hurting. Cite 1-2 concrete examples that support and/ or dispute this argument and explain your personal position.
2. McKnight also takes a strong stand on knowledge creation with the distinction that guidance ought to be found in “traditional wisdom” of mankind, not expertise of helping professions. Considering your professional practice – to what extent is traditional wisdom used vs. “expert knowledge”? What is the role of expert knowledge in your field?

Household debt in Canada

In class last week we discussed household debt and it’s influence on economic well-being in Canada. There is evidence that the debt levels of Canadians is too high. Below I show two graphs that provide evidence of the rising debt in Canada.

First, is a graph from the Economist comparing household debt as a percentage of disposable income across OECD countries.

Household debt across OECD countries

The graph presents a number of points for discussion. Let’s focus on the United States compared to Canada. The graph shows that the 2012 debt level in the US is far below the level of debt experienced in 2007 just before the housing crisis and subsequent recession. In contrast, see that Canada’s debt levels have only expanded since the recession.

Below is another chart showing the debt levels over time from the Task Force on Financial Literacy. We see the debt to income ratio has risen dramatically since 1990. At what point does the rising debt become a social welfare problem in Canada, or has it already?

Household debt Canada 2010

Fewer people in poverty?

Andrew Coyne in the National Posts reviews poverty measurement and trends over time in the article Fewer people sit below the poverty line now than ever before. Why are we not talking about it?His overall point is that poverty has gone down in Canada.

But still: a much smaller proportion of the population now lives on low income, using a benchmark that was considered the acme of progressivism just a few years ago. The numbers that would be considered poor by the standards of 1965 must be a fraction of that.

The article focuses on the distinction between relative and absolute measures and defines the LICO measurement for the lay audience. Further, the story gets to the heart of the debate between income and consumption and what it means to be poor in a rich society.

Week 3 Memo Questions


Week 3

1. Adam Smith suggests that, “through self interest he promotes the well being of others” p. 156. Explain two concrete scenarios. In the first explain how self-interest promotes development (i.e., well-being). In the second example, explain how self-interest can impede the well-being of others. Be very specific in both accounts.
2. In Figure 2 Milanovic provides us the “mother of all inequality disputes” with three concepts. Assuming you can only choose one, explain why you chose it and discuss the causes of the trend you see over time.
3. On the political philosophical level – Milanovic argues, “proletarian solidarity is then simply dead because there is no longer such a thing as the global proletariat” p. 21. Do you agree or disagree with Milanovic’s argument? Explain with 2-3 concrete lines of reasoning.

Results from the 2011 National Household Survey: Low Incomes

Stats Can released the Income of Canadians report from the National Household Survey. The report indicates that 7 in 10 Canadians are on welfare, i.e., receiving some form of social assistance (reminds me of famous Ambramovitz article; Abramovitz, M. (2001). Everyone is still on welfare: The role of redistribution in social policy. Social Work, 46(4), 297–308.).

Focusing on the lower income Canadians, the report suggests:

The majority of income for people in the lowest two income deciles came from government transfers (55.1% in the second decile and 67.5% in the lowest decile). In contrast, government transfers represented 5.0% of total income in the ninth decile and 2.1% in the top decile.

Almost one-third of those in the second decile were aged 65 and over, so OAS/GIS (21.1%) and other government income (12.3%) were among the main sources of transfer income for this group. Government assistance to people in the bottom income decile came mainly from child benefits (17.3%) and other government income (35.0%).

And, I now see that Stats Can has a video with infographics on Income.


@ArmineYalnizyan posts a commentary in the Globe and Mail

Week 2 Follow up

A couple points from class are worth emphasizing here with some vocabulary concepts. The first is purchasing power parity (PPP). Haughton and Milanovic used this term so it’s worth explaining.  PPP is used to standardize currencies to enable cross-country comparisons. 2 definitions below:

Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

The Economist

Second, I emphasized the importance of understanding market failures. Much of the economic system assumes that markets will function. People will act and behave in their self-interest. However, a growing body of work is showing how markets fail when people act against their self-interest (behavioral economics). The following provides a nice list of market failures. The Wikipedia post is not bad, either. We’ll be reading about the public goods problem- a type of market failure – later in the semester.


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