Poverty and Deep Poverty

  • Kathryn Edin
  • Linda Burton
  • David Grusky

Leaders: Linda Burton, Kathryn Edin, David Grusky

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) reveals substantial post-1970 reductions in poverty under a constant (i.e., “anchored”) threshold, but this trend masks worrisome developments at the very bottom of the distribution. Although the overall SPM has trended downward since 1970, the SPM for households with less than half of the anchored threshold level (i.e., “deep poverty”) has remained stable since 1968. Even more worrying, the most extreme forms of poverty, such as living on less than $2 per day (per person), have in fact increased over the last two decades. The main tasks of our Poverty and Deep Poverty RG are to describe trends in poverty and deep poverty, to assess the effectiveness of current anti-poverty programs, and to examine the likely payoff to introducing new anti-poverty programs. We present a sampling of relevant projects below.

Frequent Reporting Project: Why are unemployment statistics reported monthly whereas poverty statistics are reported only once a year (and with such a long lag)? The CPI is hard at work solving this problem.

California Poverty Project: The CPI, in collaboration with the Public Policy Institute of California, issues the California Poverty Measure (CPM) annually. There are plans afoot to make it an even more powerful policy instrument. 

Ending Poverty in California: Is it possible to substantially reduce poverty in California by relying entirely on evidence-based programs? It indeed is.

The National Poverty StudyThe country’s one-size-fits-all poverty policy ignores the seemingly profound differences between suburban poverty, immigrant poverty, reservation poverty, rural white poverty, deindustrializing poverty, and the many other ways in which massive deprivation plays out in the U.S. The National Poverty Study, which will be the country’s first qualitative census of poverty, takes on the problem.

Income supports and deep poverty: The U.S. does not rely heavily on unconditional cash transfers in its poverty programming. Is this a mistake? The CPI is assisting Y Combinator in providing the first U.S. evidence on unconditional income support since the negative income tax experiments of the 1970s.

Disability and deep poverty: The country’s disability programs are an important anti-poverty weapon. In evaluating their effectiveness, it is important to determine whether the low employment rates among program recipients reflects an underlying (low) capacity for employment, as opposed to the labor-supply effects of the programs themselves. Although it’s long been difficult to assess such labor-supply effects, now there’s a way forward.

Evictions and deep and extreme poverty: Are evictions an important cause of deep and extreme poverty? This line of research examines the extent to which deep and extreme poverty can be reduced with a “housing first” policy that ramps up federal housing programs.

Deep poverty and TANF add-ons: The country is implicitly running hundreds of experiments on how best to structure TANF programs, but it hasn’t had the capacity to evaluate them. Are administrative data the answer?

Poverty - CPI Research

Title Author Media
It's Not Like I'm Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes

It's Not Like I'm Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World

Author: Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes
Publisher: University of California Press
Date: 01/2015

The world of welfare has changed radically. As the poor trade welfare checks for low-wage jobs, their low earnings qualify them for a hefty check come tax time—a combination of the earned income tax credit and other refunds. For many working parents this one check is like hitting the lottery, offering several months’ wages as well as the hope of investing in a better future. Drawing on interviews with 115 families, the authors look at how parents plan to use this annual cash windfall to build up savings, go back to school, and send their kids to college. However, these dreams of upward mobility are often dashed by the difficulty of trying to get by on meager wages. In accessible and engaging prose, It’s Not Like I’m Poor examines the costs and benefits of the new work-based safety net, suggesting ways to augment its strengths so that more of the working poor can realize the promise of a middle-class life.

Rising Extreme Poverty in the United States and the Response of Federal Means-Tested Transfer Programs Kathryn Edin, H. Luke Schaefer

Rising Extreme Poverty in the United States and the Response of Federal Means-Tested Transfer Programs

Author: Kathryn Edin, H. Luke Schaefer
Publisher: Social Service Review
Date: 06/2013

This study documents an increase in the prevalence of extreme poverty among US households with children between 1996 and 2011 and assesses the response of major federal means-tested transfer programs. Extreme poverty is defined using a World Bank metric of global poverty: $2 or less, per person, per day. Using the 1996–2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we estimate that in mid-2011, 1.65 million households with 3.55 million children were living in extreme poverty in a given month, based on cash income, constituting 4.3 percent of all nonelderly households with children. The prevalence of extreme poverty has risen sharply since 1996, particularly among those most affected by the 1996 welfare reform. Adding SNAP benefits to household income reduces the number of extremely poor households with children by 48.0 percent in mid-2011. Adding SNAP, refundable tax credits, and housing subsidies reduces it by 62.8 percent.

 

Poverty Requires Disaster Relief Michele Dauber

Poverty Requires Disaster Relief

Author: Michele Dauber
Publisher:
Date: 12/2012
Housing and the Great Recession Ingrid Gould Ellen, Samuel Dastrup

Housing and the Great Recession

Author: Ingrid Gould Ellen, Samuel Dastrup
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

The story of the Great Recession cannot be told without addressing housing and, in particular, the dramatic decline in housing prices that began in late 2006. A distinctive feature of the Great Recession is its intimate connection to the housing sector; indeed many would argue that the Great Recession was triggered by the widespread failure of risky mortgage products. Whatever the sources of the Great Recession may have been, the housing sector is still deeply troubled and is a key contributor to our ongoing economic duress. This recession brief lays out the main features of the downturn in the housing sector.

The Labor Force and the Great Recession Michael Hout, Erin Cumberworth

The Labor Force and the Great Recession

Author: Michael Hout, Erin Cumberworth
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

The Great Recession and the slow recovery since have been the longest economic slump in seventy years. It affected vulnerable populations more than others. In this brief, our aim is to put this disaster into historical context, looking first at the overall state of the labor market and then at how the economic harm has been distributed across the population by gender, level of education, and race and ethnicity.

Poverty - CPI Affiliates

Gary N. Marks Principal Research Fellow Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Gary Sandefur Professor of Sociology University of Wisconsin-Madison
Gavin Jones Associate Professor of English Stanford University
George Akerlof Koshland Professor of Economics; 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics University of California, Berkeley
George Farkas Professor of Sociology and Demography The Pennsylvania State University

Pages

Poverty - Other Research

Title Author Media
Poverty Traps Bowles, Samuel , Steven N. Durlauf, Karla Ruth Hoff

Poverty Traps

Author: Bowles, Samuel , Steven N. Durlauf, Karla Ruth Hoff
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Date: 03/2006
The Changing Face of Inequality in Home Mortgage Lending Williams, Richard, Reynold Nesiba, Eileen Diaz McConnell

The Changing Face of Inequality in Home Mortgage Lending

Author: Williams, Richard, Reynold Nesiba, Eileen Diaz McConnell
Publisher: Social Problems
Date: 01/2005
Housing and Wealth Inequality: Racial-Ethnic Differences in Home Equity in the United States Lauren J. Krivo and Robert L Kaufman

Housing and Wealth Inequality: Racial-Ethnic Differences in Home Equity in the United States

Author: Lauren J. Krivo and Robert L Kaufman
Publisher: Demography
Date: 08/2004
Flexible Firms and Labor Market Segmentation: Effects of Workplace Restructuring on Jobs and Workers Arne. L. Kalleberg

Flexible Firms and Labor Market Segmentation: Effects of Workplace Restructuring on Jobs and Workers

Author: Arne. L. Kalleberg
Publisher: Work and Occupations
Date: 05/2003
Space and Unemployment: The Labor-Market Effects of Spatial Mismatch Jan K. Brueckner , Yves Zenou

Space and Unemployment: The Labor-Market Effects of Spatial Mismatch

Author: Jan K. Brueckner , Yves Zenou
Publisher: Journal of Labor Economics
Date: 01/2003