Why are some Americans changing their names? : The Conversation

In 2008, Newsweek published an article on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama titled “From Barry to Barack.”

The story explained how Obama’s Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr., chose Barry as a nickname for himself in 1959 in order “to fit in.” But the younger Barack – who had been called Barry since he was a child – chose to revert to his given name, Barack, in 1980 as a college student coming to terms with his identity.

Newsweek’s story reflects a typical view of name changing: Immigrants in an earlier era changed their names to assimilate, while in our contemporary era of ethnic pride, immigrants and their children are more likely to retain or reclaim ethnic names.

However, my research on name changing suggests a more complicated narrative. For the past 10 years, I’ve studied thousands of name-changing petitions deposited at the New York City Civil Court from 1887 through today.

Those petitions suggest that name changing has changed significantly over time: While it was primarily Jews in the early to mid-20th century who altered their names to avoid discrimination, today it’s a more diverse group of people changing their names for a range of reasons, from qualifying for government benefits to keeping their families unified.

Jews hope to improve their job prospects

From the 1910s through the 1960s, the overwhelming majority of people petitioning to change their names weren’t immigrants seeking to have their names Americanized.

Instead, they were native-born American Jews who faced significant institutional discrimination.

In the 1910s and 1920s, many employers wouldn’t hire Jews, and universities began establishing quotas on Jewish applicants. One way to tell if someone was Jewish was his or her name, so it made sense that Jews would want to get rid of names that “sounded” Jewish.

As Dora Sarietzky, a stenographer and typist, explained in her 1937 petition:

“My name proved to be a great handicap in securing a position. … In order to facilitate securing work, I assumed the name Doris Watson.”

Since most petitioners were native-born Americans, this wasn’t about fitting in. It was a direct response to racism.

The changing face of name changing

While 80 percent of petitioners in 1946 sought to erase their ethnic names and replace them with more generic “American-sounding” ones, only 25 percent of petitioners in 2002 did the same. Meanwhile, few name changers in the past 50 years have actually made a decision like Barack Obama’s: Only about 5 percent of all name change petitions in 2002 sought a name more ethnically identifiable.

So why, in the 21st century, are people feeling compelled to change their names?

The demographics of name change petitioners today – and the reasons that they give – suggest a complicated story of race, class and culture.

Jewish names disappeared in the petitions over the last two decades of the 20th century. At the same time, the numbers of African-American, Asian and Latino petitioners rose dramatically after 2001.

On the one hand, this reflected the changing demographics of the city. But there was also a marked shift in the class of petitioners. While only 1 percent of petitioners in 1946 lived in a neighborhood with a median income below the poverty line, by 2012, 52 percent of petitioners lived in such a neighborhood.

Navigating the bureaucracy

These new petitioners aren’t seeking to improve their educational and job prospects in large numbers, like the Jews of the 1930s and 1940s.


Source: Why are some Americans changing their names? : The Conversation

Welfare reform ‘will see £50 a week more cuts to 900,000 disabled people’ – Black Triangle Campaign

John Pring Disability News Service 14th September 2017

About 900,000 disabled people will see their weekly incomes fall by at least £50 a week by 2020, because of the continuing impact of the government’s welfare reforms, according to new research.

The research by the consultancy Policy in Practice found that, of 7.2 million working-age, low-income households, more than two-fifths of those containing a working-age disabled person would lose at least £50 a week, compared with November 2016.

The report, The Cumulative Impact Of Welfare Reform: A National Picture, says the impact of measures introduced after November 2016 will see the average low-income household containing a working-age disabled person lose £51.47 a week by 2020, compared with an average loss of £35.82 for households not containing a disabled person.

This will come on top of an average weekly loss of more than £20 for low-income households containing a working-age disabled person as a result of welfare reforms introduced pre-November 2016 – such as the benefit cap, cuts to housing benefit and the bedroom tax – although this figure does not take account of rising living costs.


Source: Welfare reform ‘will see £50 a week more cuts to 900,000 disabled people’ – Black Triangle Campaign

Nobody is Unfit for Work – Black Triangle Campaign

What you will read may be very distressing for you, but we are looking at the worst-case scenario and identifying measures to help you and other claimants.
It would be good to have some feedback on the Health and Work Conversations from people who have made an ESA claim. More we know about it, and more we can fight this.
What you should not do, is to decide not to claim ESA. That is what DWP wants you to do.
Some documents released by the DWP have shown the direction of travel in terms of claiming ESA under UC.
Under the old regime, a person wishing to claim ESA was placed in the ESA assessment phase, attracting the lowest ESA rate (JSA rate), and also no conditionality, and this until a Work Capability Assessment could decide whether the claimant was fit or unfit for work.
The Work and Health Conversation
Under Universal Credit, a person wishing to claim ESA will be first called for a Health and Work Conversation (HWC). This conversation is basically a Work Focus Interview, and is mandatory, which means that a claimant can be sanctioned for not attending. Attending does not only mean being physically present at the interview but also fulfilling all the requirements set by DWP for a WFI:
Regulation 57 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008:
57.—(1) A claimant is regarded as having taken part in a work-focused interview if the claimant—
(a) attends for the interview at the place and at the date and time notified in accordance with regulation 56;
(b) provides information, if requested by the Secretary of State, about any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (2);
(c) participates in discussions to the extent the Secretary of State considers necessary, about any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (3);
(d) assists the Secretary of State in the completion of an action plan.
 (2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(b) are—
(a) the claimant’s educational qualifications and vocational training;
(b) the claimant’s work history;
(c) the claimant’s aspirations for future work;
(d) the claimant’s skills that are relevant to work;
(e) the claimant’s work-related abilities;
(f) the claimant’s caring or childcare responsibilities; and
(g) any paid or unpaid work that the claimant is undertaking.
(3) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(c) are—

Source: Nobody is Unfit for Work – Black Triangle Campaign

The Government may be about to scrap one of its harshest disability benefit cuts | UK Politics | News | The Independent

ESA WRAGESA cutsdisability benefitsDisabilitybenefitsWelfaresocial security

Source: The Government may be about to scrap one of its harshest disability benefit cuts | UK Politics | News | The Independent

Sickness worsening? Beware following DWP rules

More mismanagement by DWP assessors.


Before Christmas I attended an emergency interim appointment with my psychotherapist, (I’m still waiting regular appointments 2 years after referral); this was due to my continuous depression and dissociation becoming dangerous, I was constantly fighting thoughts of suicide . Because the S word was used, my therapist was obliged to write to my GP, which then led to my carer being compelled to inform the DWP of a change in my circumstances; what amazed me was, this reported change resulted in me having to complete a new claim!

Why the DWP feel a deterioration in mental health would be helped by having to go through the process of a new claim I’ve no idea? Anyway my carer duly filled in the form, and on page 31, other information, he stated HE was both my full time carer and would be acting as my representative, this was then sent off along with the…

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WOWpetition’s Press Release concerning the Governments official response to e-petition 106068

WOW Petition Campaign

Tuesday 3rd November 2015

“The Government’s response to the WOWpetition can only be described as inadequate.”

Since 2012 nearly 200,000 signatures have been collected by 3 e-petitions that challenge the Government to demonstrate a duty of care towards sick and disabled people by assessing the cumulative impact on this group of the swathes of cuts inflicted on them by Government policies on Health, Social Care and Welfare. Until Friday morning the Government had claimed it was impossible to disaggregate the cumulative effect of their policy changes on disabled people but Friday’s response (View at www.wowpetition.co.uk) confirmed that it is possible to produce such an analysis but that the Government have chosen not to do one, presumably because “voters” would be sickened if they understood that austerity had been deliberately targeted at sick and disabled people. Dr Simon Duffy’s research for the Centre for Welfare Reform found that some…

View original post 2,119 more words

‘Shocking’ inequality levels in Britain must be addressed, John Major

Original post from The Guardian

‘…………By Ben Quinn

Former Conservative prime minister wants to see greater concentration on people failed by the system

Sir John Major
Sir John Major Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

Former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major has criticised the “shocking” impact of inequality in Britain and said more needed to be done to urgently tackle the gap between the rich and the poor.

In a speech reiterating a number of touchstones of one-nation Conservatism, he pointedly set himself against language that sought to cast those who were out of work as “idlers” and benefit claimants as “scroungers”

Delivering a Hinton lecture entitled A nation at ease with itself?, Major told the audience in London that he had begun to reflect more and more on inequality as he grew older.

In a country now immensely more wealthy than the one in which he grew up, he said that life was still not easy for many, adding: “Even in areas that are recognised as wealthy, there are families or individuals who have fallen behind.

“Policymakers must understand how hard it is to escape from such circumstances. It is not inertia that keeps the unemployed immobile: it is simply that, without help, they are trapped.”

Turning to the role of the benefits system, he said: “Let us cast aside a common misconception. Everyone out of work is not an idler.

“Everyone in receipt of benefits is not a scrounger. Of course idlers and scroungers exist – and governments are entirely right to root out the cheats who rip off the taxpayer. But the focus must not be only on those who abuse the system; we need equal concentration on those who are failed by the system.”

Describing poverty as being “not only about empty pockets”, Major described contemporary Britain as one in which the lifespan of the poorest in some major cities was 20 years shorter than those of the most wealthy.

“I have no doubt that much of this disparity is caused by poor lifestyle, poor choices, poor diet – but poor environment, poor housing and poor education must surely be contributory factors. Whatever the reasons, this is a shocking situation in 2015,” he added.

The former prime minister went on to deliver a plea for the upgrade of Britain’s infrastructure, as well as emphasising the roles of the private sector and charities.

However, while talking of his pride in the scale of philanthropic, voluntary and charitable work across the UK, Major warned that a reality check was required, stating: “We cannot be complacent about our charitable sector. There are negatives: we have all seen the publicity generated by bad fundraising practices and poor governance.

“I won’t dwell on these shortcomings, except to note that all charities have a duty to protect their reputation. Unless they are seen as efficient and well run, donations will fall away.”   ……………’



‘Something has to give’ – will it be George Osborne?| Anne Perkins | Comment is free | The Guardian

John Major has warned that poverty makes life meaner and shorter. And now Tory MPs have rounded on their chancellor over cuts to tax credits

Source: ‘Something has to give’ – will it be George Osborne?| Anne Perkins | Comment is free | The Guardian

George Osborne skews spending towards health and elderly people

Original post from The Guardian

‘………………By  Political editor

Spending review on 23 November is expected to shift funding away from education and economic development, within overall cuts to state budget

The proportion of state spending on health and elderly people will reach 44%. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian
The proportion of state spending on health and elderly people will reach 44%. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

George Osborne’s decade-long redesign of the British state will result in 44% of state spending going on health and elderly people, the highest proportion since comparable records began in the 1990s.

As the chancellor hailed the first decisions in the forthcoming spending review, new research from a thinktank reveals how these two areas increasingly dominate public finances, having risen by a quarter in the past decade.

The shifts reflect the Conservatives’ twin decisions since taking office in 2010 to cut back state spending overall, while protecting pensioners and health spending over a decade in which the population is ageing and greater demands are placed on the health service.

Meanwhile, the share of overall state spending that goes on education and economic development, including house building, is set to fall by around one fifth over the same period to 19% – its lowest share since comparable data began in 1997.

“The move towards health – and away from areas such as post-16 education and research and development – raises questions about the future role of the state in boosting productivity and supporting young adults,” concludes the thinktank, which is chaired by former Tory universities minister David Willetts.

Osborne announced on Monday that four government departments had reached agreement with him for a further 30% of cuts. But the four government departments – the Treasury itself and the departments for communities, environment and transport – all have very small current budgets.

The chancellor said the spending review, due to be announced on 23 November, was going according to plan and was the easiest of the three spending reviews he had conducted as chancellor of the exchequer. By the end of the parliament, the government is expected to run a budget surplus.


Osborne insisted the government “must hold its nerve” in its first spending review conducted by the Conservatives without the Liberal Democrats beside them in government. “Quite frankly, if we are not into surplus after 10 full years of economic growth, when will we ever be?,” he said.

But there are growing signs that the Treasury is facing resistance as big Whitehall departments and local government leaders urge him to find extra sources of government revenue or delay his plan to achieve an overall surplus by 2019-20.

There are numerous signs of pressure:

  • The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, warned that its promised extra cash will have to be front loaded in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to fill a budget shortfall despite NHS protection from real-terms cuts. Stevens warned that the comprehensive spending review may not provide a “workable” solution for the NHS, even though ministers have pledged to increase the health service’s annual budget by £8bn a year by 2020.
  • The Conservative-led leadership of the Local Government Association said if the scale of the cuts agreed by the Department of Communities to its own budget were imposed on core council funding, local authorities in England and Wales faced £16.5bn in funding reductions and increased cost pressures by the end of the decade, leading to further inevitable cuts to social care.
  • The Home Office was forced to abandon plans to introduce a new police funding formula, due to be implemented as part of the spending review, throwing calculations on future police budgets into chaos. It adds to the likelihood that the Home Office’s plans to enforce massive police force cuts will prompt a legal challenge by police commissioners.
  • Osborne was forced to deny reports that he was arguing bitterly with the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, over plans to fund a U-turn over tax credits by cutting the generosity of universal credit.

Former senior diplomats urged that the Foreign Office should be protected from cuts by giving it greater access to the overseas aid budget. Osborne promised extra spending for the security services likely to lead to an extra 1,000 staff in the three security agencies by the end of this parliament.

The Resolution Foundation calculates that, from 2010 to 2019, the budgets for current spending will have been cut by 75% at the Department of Transport, by 64% at the Department for Communities and Local Government and by 53% at the Department for Business. Capital spending is not included in the calculations.

By contrast, the NHS budget will have risen by 14% over the same period and the international development budget increased by 40%.

The thinktank questioned whether politicians had thought sufficiently about the reshaping of the state brought about by the mix of cuts and the protections provided to specific departments and age groups.

The foundation said: “While the focus of the autumn statement will largely be on how the pain of spending cuts has been spread around departments – as well as any changes to tax credit reforms – it’s important to step back and consider what the chancellor’s plan means for the long-term role of the state and the support it provides across different parts of the population”.

The thinktank found a growing generational divide since the financial crash, with average spending per head set to fall by 7% for children and 9% among working age adults.

In contrast, spending per capita on older people will rise by about 19% over the same period. By the end of this decade, spending on the state pension will account for more than half of all welfare spending. This is despite the big shift in welfare spending towards pensioners being cushioned to some extent by significant increases in the state pension age since 2010, culminating in a rise to 66 for men and women in 2020.

Continued demographic changes post-2020 are likely to exacerbate the shift in welfare spending towards elderly people.   ……………….’