We have long recognized that triage systems designed for access maximization may have different algorithms for what to do with a case than those designed for poverty minimization, as those deployed by community-based advocacy organizations might choose to develop.
One factor that might be taken into account in such a poverty minimization algorithm might be the risk that the failure to provide services would result in a person falling deeper into poverty, or that the provision of services might result in removing someone from poverty. Moreover, both long and short term risk might be considered.
Now there comes a tool that, while using only the factors of race, education, marital status and age, is designed to help calculate the risk of being in poverty in the short, medium, or long term. The tool is described by its developers here. Maybe one day it might be converted into an API (applications programming interface) that would show the risk of falling into poverty for people being served by various agencies or systems, to the extent desirable and appropriate.
The current tool, while far from a triage tool, or even anything like the complex kind of predictor that might be needed for a triage component, already highlights the long term possibilities of data to take such factors into account and to make decisions based on inputing those factors into algorithms. The tool may also help us think about the complexities and difficulties that such systems would raise.
This tool confirms the lessons my dad and grand dad gave me: education is the most valuable investment of a young person’s life. They used to tell me all the time when I was a little girl: “Your head is not only for your hair you know–what you have between your eyebrows nobody can’t take away. Study!”.
I went did this tool for fun (maybe not fun to see the output?). If I changed my marriage status my probability of being in poverty went up significantly, like 30 points. So going from married to single incurs a high risk of falling into poverty (note to self–it is a worth it to work on your marriage and keep it happy).
If I change my race in the tool, and I went from non white to white–my likely hood of being poor when down by about 10%. Race I can’t change–I am a brown woman in this society. As a society we can work on creating equality and equal opportunity and removing “isms” (racism, sexism) from our society (equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity, equal access, equal recognition for achievements, removing the glass ceiling for people of color and women of color etc).
However, if I had not finished high school, the likelihood of being in poverty goes up by over 60%! Thank you dad and grand dad for encouraging me to stay in school and do well in school. I am glad I listened to you and managed to do both, keep my hair long and stay in school. I have learned my lesson.