The Alleviation of Poverty: How Far Have We Come?

Robert D. Plotnick

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Poverty

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393781
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Alleviation of Poverty: How Far Have We Come?

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This article assesses poverty rates in the United States. It examines data from 1965 to 2010 on alternative measures of poverty, which include market poverty, adjusted income poverty, relative poverty, and official poverty. Across measures, there is evidence of progress in the 1960s and 1970s, but this ceased around 1980. The poverty rate is divided into three components: changes in market poverty among subgroups of the overall population, changes in the antipoverty impact of income-support programs, and changes in demographic structure. Market poverty has been exacerbated by the anemic growth in real earnings of low-skilled workers. The antipoverty impact of income-support programs fell in the early 1980s when traditional transfer programs were replaced by term-limited or work-based programs. Important demographic changes include an increase in the relative size of the elderly population, the influx of immigrants, and the rising proportion of children living with a single parent. The net effect of these changes has been stasis in the overall poverty rate that has been calculated based on traditional methods.

Keywords: poverty alleviation; anti-poverty policy; social policy; poverty measure; market poverty; income-support programs; demographic structure

Article.  14456 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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