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Californians with low incomes hit hardest by high costs of living & inflation

Around 3 in 5 California households with incomes below $50,000 had trouble affording basic expenses in June

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

By Kayla Kitson & Sara Kimberlin | SACRAMENTO – For many years, high costs of living have made it difficult for many Californians to keep themselves and their families safely housed, healthy, and nourished. Recent high inflation has made it even harder for people to thrive in California communities.

When basic costs go up, Californians with the lowest incomes are particularly likely to struggle to make ends meet. Around 3 in 5 California households with incomes below $50,000 had trouble affording basic expenses in June. And due to past and continued discrimination, about one-half of Black, Latinx, and other Californians of color reported struggling with basic expenses in recent months, compared to about 30% of white Californians.

Policymakers should ensure policies to address recent price increases prioritize the needs of people with low incomes, who were already left out of sharing the state’s pre-pandemic prosperity and who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and inflation.

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The preceding article was previously published by the California Budget & Policy Center and was republished with permission.

The California Budget & Policy Center (Budget Center) is a nonpartisan, research and analysis nonprofit committed to advancing public policies that improve the lives of Californians who are denied opportunities to share in the state’s wealth and deserve the dignity and support to lead thriving lives in our communities.

We highlight inequities in our state — specifically in budget choices and public policies affecting low and middle income households, women, immigrants, American Indians, Asian, Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander Californians, as well as other Californians of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ Californians — and identify policy pathways that expand economic opportunities and promote well-being for all Californians.

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Research/Study

Suicide risk & access to care among LGBTQ college students

LGBTQ college students with access to mental health services through their college had drastically lower odds of attempting suicide

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LGBTQ+ UCLA graduates (Photo Credit: UCLA LGBTQ Campus Resource Center)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project’s researchers team published new data this week that assessed suicide risk, access to mental health services, and access to LGBTQ student services among a national sampling of LGBTQ+ college and university students.

The report’s findings show that LGBTQ college students with access to mental health services through their college or university had drastically lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those without access.

The data in the report takes on greater relevance as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is observed this September and highlight the ways in which community leaders, parents, and others can help prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth — a group that is more than four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight and cisgender peers.

Key Findings:

  • LGBTQ college students with access to mental health services through their college had 84% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to LGBTQ college students without access. 
    • LGBTQ college students reported that common barriers to accessing care included that they did not feel comfortable going (33%), long waitlists, (29%), and privacy concerns (17%).
  • LGBTQ college students with access to LGBTQ student services through their college had 44% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to LGBTQ college students without access.
    •  Over six in ten (63%) LGBTQ college students reported that their college had LGBTQ-specific services, such as an LGBTQ center, available. 
    • Those who did not have access to LGBTQ student services through their college reported significantly higher rates of seriously considering suicide in the past year (41%) compared to those who did have access (30%). 
  • One in three (33%) LGBTQ college students seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 7% reported a suicide attempt in the past year. 
    • Rates of considering suicide were higher among LGBTQ college students of color (35%), multisexual students (35%), and transgender and nonbinary students (39%),
    • LGBTQ students of color (9%) and transgender and nonbinary students (9%) reported significantly higher rates of attempting suicide in the past year compared to White LGBTQ students (6%) and cisgender LGBQ students (4%).
  • Nearly nine in ten LGBTQ college students (89%) reported that their college was accepting of LGBTQ people, and this was associated with the availability of LGBTQ-specific student services.

“These findings are strikingly clear: LGBTQ college students who reported having access to mental health services at school had dramatically lower odds of attempting suicide compared to those without access,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants (he/him), Research Scientist at The Trevor Project.

“While college environments offer a number of positive and protective factors for LGBTQ students, the reality is that suicide risk still very much persists, especially among those who do not have access to affirming spaces and services. We urge all colleges and universities to realize that access to mental health care services, as well as LGBTQ-specific student services, on college campuses is critical for ensuring the mental health and safety of their LGBTQ student body,” he added.

Read the report here (Link)

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Research/Study

Black men account for 91% of HIV-related arrests in Louisiana

A new data interactive looks at the impact of HIV criminal laws on people living with HIV in nine states, including Louisiana

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Screenshot/YouTube

BATON ROUGE – Since 2011, as many as 176 people have had contact with Louisiana’s criminal legal system because of allegations of HIV crimes, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. HIV-related crimes are disproportionately enforced based on race and sex. In Louisiana, Black men represent 15% of the state population and 44% of people living with HIV, but 91% of those arrested for an HIV crime.

Using data obtained from the Louisiana Incident-Based Reporting System and from the state’s most populous parishes, researchers found that enforcement of HIV crimes is concentrated in East Baton Rouge Parish, Orleans Parish, and Calcasieu Parish. Furthermore, the number of HIV incidents—or interactions with law enforcement involving allegations of HIV crimes—is not declining over time.

HIV criminalization is a term used to describe laws that either criminalize otherwise legal conduct or increase the penalties for illegal conduct based upon a person’s HIV-positive status. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. states and territories currently have laws that criminalize people living with HIV.

A new data interactive looks at the impact of HIV criminal laws on people living with HIV in nine states, including Louisiana.

Louisiana has one criminal law related to HIV, which makes it a felony for a person who knows of their HIV-positive status to intentionally expose another person to HIV through sexual contact or other means without consent. The maximum sentence for an intentional exposure conviction is 10 years, and people convicted of an HIV crime are required to register on the state’s sex offender registry for at least 15 years.

Louisiana’s HIV criminal law does not require actual transmission, intent to transmit, or even the possibility of transmission to sustain a conviction. Between 2011 and 2022, incarceration for HIV crimes cost Louisiana at least $6.5 million.

“The cost of Louisiana’s HIV criminal law is likely much higher. Even with only partial access to the state’s criminal enforcement data, the trends were dramatic,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Louisiana’s HIV criminal law may undermine the state’s public health efforts by deterring the communities most impacted by HIV, including people of color and sex workers, from seeking testing and treatment.”  

KEY FINDINGS

  • Most HIV criminal incidents (80%) in Louisiana involved only allegations of an HIV-related crime; no other crimes were alleged in the incidents.
  • Black people—and especially Black men—were the majority of people identified as suspects and arrested for HIV-related crimes in Louisiana.
    • Across the state, 63% of suspects were Black and 45% were Black men. For incidents that resulted in arrest, all of those arrested were Black and 91% were Black men.
    • In New Orleans, close to 80% of all suspects were identified as Black and 58% were Black men.
  • Black people and women were overrepresented among victims of HIV-related incidents.
    • Across the state, Black women and white women each represented 28% of all victims.
    • In New Orleans, Black men were 58% of all victims.
  • Since 1998, there have been at least 47 separate HIV-related convictions resulting in sex offender registration, involving 43 people.
  • Most people (63%) on the sex offender registry because of an HIV-related conviction are on the registry only because of the HIV-related conviction.
  • Three-quarters of people on the sex offender registry for an HIV-related conviction were Black.
  • Guilty outcomes resulted in an average sentence of 4.3 years.
  • Incarcerating people for HIV-related charges has cost Louisiana at least $6.5 million.

This report is part of a series of reports examining the ongoing impact of state HIV criminalization laws on people living with HIV. Take a look at our new data interactive summarizing the findings of our research.

Read the report

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Research/Study

Moms for Liberty hiding behind front groups targeting schools

Moms for Liberty’s Book Look & Book Looks are facilitating the book banning process as they gut public school libraries

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Olivia Little | WASHINGTON – As we enter Banned Books Week 2022, a new movement to gut public school libraries is sweeping the nation, with far-right “parental rights” group Moms for Liberty and two pro-censorship organizations — Book Look and Book Looks — at the forefront.

Moms for Liberty’s book banning campaign is growing in both size and intensity, with a clear strategy: manufacture moral panic in your community to pressure public schools into removing titles with LGBTQ themes or discussions of racism in American history. With the help of Book Look and Book Looks, it’s been increasingly successful.

With over 200 chapters, Moms for Liberty has become the largest driver of the nationwide book banning crusade, which has led to harassment and threats against public school teacherslibrarians, and education officials. Moms for Liberty chapters have challenged Martin Luther King Jr. and the March to Washington because of “photographs of political violence” and Ruby Bridges Goes to School because of “racist remarks,” among other objections. Moms for Liberty is also a vocally anti-LGBTQ organization and has advocated for trans bathroom bans in public schools.

Now, Media Matters has obtained documentation showing that Moms for Liberty has created “Books/Library Director” chapter positions that would be responsible for surveying and evaluating library book lists and challenging them within local school districts. These positions would allow each individual chapter to have a member organizing the gutting of public school libraries. One chapter has already started a “book review committee” and encouraged parents to go to their child’s public school open house and take pictures of books in the library containing “material most of us would not want our kids reading.”

Media Matters has also uncovered evidence that Moms for Liberty chapters “have teamed up” with Book Look and Book Looks, which appear to be distinct entities that are crowdsourcing parents’ book reviews and using them as justification for literature bans in public schools. And while the two organizations are separate, they use nearly the same book rating system, have overlapping book reviews, and operate in a seemingly identical manner.

book look v book looks

Book Look and Book Looks both collect reports to expedite the process of challenging books, helping conservative activists organize campaigns around parents’ outrage and demand a book’s removal without even reading it. Anonymous volunteers create reports by documenting examples of profane or inappropriate content with their corresponding page number, which are then packaged into “easy to understand book content reviews centered around objectionable content.” Books are given a rating on a scale from zero to five, with zero being “appropriate for all audiences” and five being “might be arrested for reading at school board meetings.”

The rating system allows heavily biased right-wing reviewers to disguise themselves as objective arbiters. For example, a Book Looks report about Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — an award-winning graphic novel about the author’s “journey from childhood to college student to adult in relation to both her identity as a lesbian and her dynamic with her family, particularly her father who is a closeted gay man” — cites the depiction of “alternative sexualities” and “alternative gender ideologies” among other justifications for why it should be removed from school libraries. It was given a four rating: “Not for minors.”

In addition to rating books, sharing out-of-context quotes on Facebook of “objectionable” books is another part of the groups’ broader strategy that they say “gathers attention” on social media and “gets people engaged with outrage.” Individuals are also encouraged to send school boards snippets of the most objectionable books and attend board meetings to “ask publicly about progress,” or, “if you have brave volunteers, attempt to read some passages from these books and ask if the board thinks this is OK for minors. Let them stand behind this material and own it if they are not working to get rid of it.” 

Notably, Book Look’s website directs parents to links about the anti-LGBTQ “grooming” smear and articles about Moms for Liberty “fighting against porn” in schools; it also provides users with anti-trans memes to spread on social media. Some of the group’s infographics push back against the accusation that Book Look and Moms for Liberty encourage banning books, claiming that they “support the process of challenging and removing books in school libraries” and establishing “book boundaries” — which they argue is distinct from “the banning of books.” (It’s not.)

book banning infographics

There is a clear electoral initiative in this strategy, as the last point on Book Look’s plan of action is to “vote them [school board members] out next election if they refuse to work on this issue.” Taking over school boards has been a key strategy of Moms for Liberty since its inception, and it’s no surprise that the group’s efforts are accelerating as the midterms approach.

In addition to overlapping strategies, there is an undeniable connection between Moms for Liberty and these two organizations. Book Look was originally formed as the Moms for Liberty Library Book Committee, and while Book Looks claims to be unaffiliated with Moms for Liberty, Book Riot uncovered that the organization was actually spearheaded by a Moms for Liberty member. Book Looks also uses the same rating system that was shared on the Moms For Liberty Brevard County public Facebook page one month before the group formally began.

Even though the organizations are clearly tied, they have successfully duped reporters. The Washington Post extensively reported on Book Look and Book Looks without mentioning their close affiliation with Moms for Liberty (although the piece did quote the chair of a local Moms for Liberty chapter praising the group’s efforts to “prevent children from encountering sexually explicit material”). MIT’s Technology Review did the same.

Moms for Liberty has positioned itself at the center of the book banning movement to whitewash American history and push an anti-LGBTQ agenda while placing right-wing propaganda in school libraries instead. And it is using the cover of supposed parent reviews to advance this right-wing campaign, intentionally stoking outrage and encouraging distrust in public schools.

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Olivia Little is a researcher at Media Matters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in law and public policy from Indiana University. Olivia previously worked as a research associate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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