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A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream
Editor’s note: The next president is in for a rough welcome to the Oval Office given the list of immediate crises and slow-burning policy challenges, both foreign and domestic. What should Washington do? Why should the average American care? We’ve set out to clearly define US strategic interests and provide actionable policy solutions to help the new administration build a 2017 agenda that strengthens American leadership abroad while bolstering prosperity at home.
What to Do: Policy Recommendations for 2017 is an ongoing project from AEI. Click here for access to the complete series, which addresses a wide range of issues from rebuilding America’s military to higher education reform to helping people find work.
Members of the AEI/Brookings Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity:
Lawrence Aber | Stuart Butler | Sheldon Danziger | Robert Doar | David T. Ellwood | Judith M. Gueron | Jonathan Haidt | Ron Haskins | Harry J. Holzer | Kay Hymowitz | Lawrence Mead | Ronald Mincy | Richard V. Reeves | Michael R. Strain | Jane Waldfogel
Executive Summary: As America recovers slowly from the Great Recession, many of our fellow citizens remain mired in poverty. Economic trends, cultural changes, and changes in family and marriage patterns are combining in new ways that make it harder for those born on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder to lift themselves up. Poverty is changing, and policy responses must change too.
One ray of hope is that Republicans and Democrats are increasingly talking about the intertwined problems of poverty and opportunity. But even if all agree that America must act, our growing political polarization and legislative gridlock make action seem ever less likely with each passing year.
The only way forward, we believe, is to work together. No side has a monopoly on the truth, but each side can block legislative action. We therefore created a working group of top experts on poverty, evenly balanced between progressives and conservatives (and including a few centrists). We obtained sponsorship and financial support from the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. We worked together for fourteen months, drawing on principles designed to maximize civility, trust, and open-mindedness within the group. We knew that the final product would reflect compromises made by people of good will and differing views.
This is our report. In addition to the political diversity of its authors, our report is unusual in a second way: it is based on shared values. While working together, we discovered that the key to our cooperation was to recognize that policy is often infused with moral values, and we identified three that we believe all Americans share: opportunity, responsibility, and security. We explain these values in the first chapter of the report, and we show how our recommendations will help America and its citizens live up to these values. In Chapter 2, we offer a state-of-the-art review of what we know about poverty in America today, including several alarming trends that current policies either aren’t improving or are actively making worse.
To strengthen families in ways that will prepare children for success in education and work:
To improve the quantity and quality of work in ways that will better prepare young people—men as well as women—to assume the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood:
To improve education in ways that will better help poor children avail themselves of opportunities for self-advancement:
In our final chapter, we discuss the costs of our proposals, and how the nation might pay for this comprehensive approach to reducing poverty and enhancing opportunity. We close with a call for America to live up to its noble identity and highest values, or, in the words of Abraham Lincoln: “to clear paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”
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A newsletter highlighting work on poverty—and efforts to reduce it—from AEI’s Poverty Studies team.
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