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AEI on Poverty

Your periodic newsletter of the latest research, developments, and opinions on efforts to reduce poverty and expand opportunity.

A growing economy reduced poverty

Over the last two weeks, important new reports were released with good news for poverty fighters across the country: the official poverty rate dropped from 14.8 percent to 13.5 percent in 2015, and both food insecurity and very low food security significantly declined as well.

The fact that we are just now seeing progress, as caseloads for major assistance programs decrease, illustrates that a strengthening economy that gets more Americans working is the most essential ingredient for fighting poverty.

As we turn to strategies for making further improvements, AEI Research Fellow Angela Rachidi makes a convincing case that our focus throughout policy should be on getting more Americans working. From disability programs to child care assistance to apprenticeship programs, a host of changes could be made to increase employment among low-income Americans.

Dr. Rachidi hopes more state-level experimentation will help us discover effective approaches for addressing our country’s work problem, which is discussed in great depth by AEI Scholar Nicholas Eberstadt in his forthcoming book “Men Without Work.”

And AEI Visiting Scholar Edward Conard argues in his new book that we should be wary of relying on increased income redistribution to help low-income and middle-class Americans move up. Conard asserts that taxing wealthy Americans to provide assistance to the middle class dulls incentives for entrepreneurial risk-taking, the key to further economic growth, and that redistribution hurts the working class by discouraging work.

As always, I hope you read this newsletter with interest and share it with friends, family, and colleagues.

Robert Doar
Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies
American Enterprise Institute
Upcoming Events
September 19
In our hands: A plan to replace the welfare state – In the updated and revised version of “In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State,” Charles Murray sketches a plan to replace America’s patchwork welfare system with a universal basic income. Join us for a discussion on “In Our Hands” with Dr. Murray and Jared Bernstein.
October 4
First annual AEI conference on economical, workforce, and entry-level housing – Join AEI for a daylong conference to discuss market-rate approaches for expanding housing supply. Experts from industry, academia, the financial community, and government will share lessons learned from their efforts in this area.
Stat of the Week
Among working-age adults who worked full-time, year-round in 2015, the poverty rate was
Census Bureau
Nonprofit News

The Woodlawn Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, follows the Purpose Built Communities model, which focuses on mixed-income housing, education, and community wellness in a specific neighborhood. The model was successful in the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta and is now being tried in other neighborhoods nationwide.

New from AEI

The latest research and commentary from AEI experts on issues related to poverty and opportunity

The upside of inequality: How good intentions undermine the middle class
Edward Conard | Portfolio

In his latest book, “The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class,” Edward Conard discredits popular misconceptions about income inequality and exposes the true cost of taxing success more heavily — slower growth and lower wages for everyone.

Why we need a new focus on work
Angela Rachidi | InsideSources

A larger share of Americans remain poor than before the recession started in 2007, even when factoring in all noncash and tax-based government transfers. Government programs have made progress by relieving the material hardship of poor Americans, but too few are getting ahead without government aid. Our government programs should help more people become self-sufficient. But to do this, more people need to work.

Trump’s child care plan
Angela Rachidi | AEIdeas

Trump’s child care plan as a whole may have some problems, but it will hopefully start a discussion about the best way to provide child care relief to working families.

US Department of Agriculture reports hunger finally fell in 2015. Is the poverty rate next?
Robert Doar | AEIdeas

From 2014 through 2015, the unemployment rate steadily declined, and the prime-age labor force participation rate stayed flat instead of falling for the first time since the recession. With the labor market showing signs of life and more Americans going to work, it should be no surprise that we saw significantly reduced levels of hunger.

On the poverty rate and presidential leadership
Robert Doar | AEIdeas

Our nation’s performance in reducing poverty since the end of the Great Recession has been disappointing — and the good news that the poverty rate dropped from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015 doesn’t change the overall story very much.

The idle army: America’s unworking men
Nicholas Eberstadt | The Wall Street Journal

America is now home to a vast army of jobless men who are no longer even looking for work — roughly seven million of them age 25 to 54, the traditional prime of working life.

As the family goes, so go the public schools
W. Bradford Wilcox | National Review Online

A new report from AEI Visiting Scholar Brad Wilcox and Nicholas Zill on graduation rates in Florida finds that family structure is a better predictor of graduation rates than is family income, race, or ethnicity in counties across the state. This suggests that educational leaders, policy reformers, and business leaders who are interested in boosting the fortunes of Florida’s schools need to look beyond the classroom.

Introducing the Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative
Robert Doar et al. | AEIdeas

Evidence-based policymaking can change how government operates. We are excited for the opportunity to build on growing momentum and elevate the use of research and evidence in government work across the country.

News Stories

News stories and opinion from around the country on poverty and opportunity

The failure to talk frankly about poverty
The Editorial Board | The New York Times

The recent announcement from the US Census Bureau revealed that the poverty rate has reached its lowest level in seven years and declined from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015. However, poverty in the United States still runs deeper than in any other wealthy nation, and neither presidential candidate has presented a clear agenda to fight poverty.

Yes, the ’96 welfare reform helped reduce child poverty
Scott Winship | National Review Online

Scott Winship highlights the role of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in addressing child poverty. When PRWORA was signed into law in 1996, many feared its impact on children of low-income households. However, since 1996, child poverty and the number of families on welfare has declined while employment among single mothers has risen, and Winship suggests that welfare reform has played an integral role in these achievements.

New Research

New studies and essays from the broader research and policy community

Income and poverty in the United States: 2015
Bernadette D. Proctor, Jessica L. Semega, and Melissa A. Kollar | United States Census Bureau

This report presents data on income, earnings, income inequality, and poverty in the United States based on information collected in the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements conducted by the US Census Bureau. The official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, down from 14.8 percent in 2014.

The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness
William N. Evans, James X. Sullivan, and Melanie Wallskog | Science

The authors evaluate a financial assistance program in Chicago that provides one-time payments for those facing imminent homelessness to help them stay in their homes. They estimate that the economic benefits exceed the economic costs because families able to get funding are 76 percent less likely to enter a homeless shelter.

Why don’t housing choice voucher recipients live near better schools? Insights from big data
Ingrid Gould Ellen, Keren Mertens Horn, and Amy Ellen Schwartz | Journal of Policy Analysis and Management

Using administrative data, the authors find that families with vouchers are more likely to move to housing zoned to better schools in the year before the oldest child meets the eligibility cutoff for kindergarten and that this effect is more pronounced in metropolitan areas with affordable rental units located near good schools. The authors believe these results show that if given enough information and opportunity, voucher families will move toward better schools as their children approach school age.

Video of the Week
Invest in what works
Robert Doar | Results for America
Invest in what works
Robert Doar describes how evidence-based policymaking can improve outcomes and increase opportunities in the communities that need it most.
We want this to be a two-way street. Have a news story that you think should be highlighted? Know of a nonprofit that’s driving results? Send it our way: [email protected]
For more, you can:

Follow @RobertDoar, @KevinCorinth, @AngelaRachidi, and @WilcoxNMP on Twitter for daily updates
Tips? Comments? Questions? Email Nicole Noyes at [email protected].

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