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
Poverty and Inequality David B. Grusky, S. M. Ravi Kanbur, Amartya Kumar Sen

Poverty and Inequality

Author: David B. Grusky, S. M. Ravi Kanbur, Amartya Kumar Sen
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Date: 01/2006
Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage Kathryn Edin, Maria Kefalas

Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage

Author: Kathryn Edin, Maria Kefalas
Publisher: University of California Press
Date: 03/2005
Making Ends Meet Kathryn Edin, Laura Lein

Making Ends Meet

Author: Kathryn Edin, Laura Lein
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 04/1997
Getting a Job Mark Granovetter

Getting a Job

Author: Mark Granovetter
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Date: 03/1995

poverty - CPI Affiliates

Harold R. Kerbo's picture Harold R. Kerbo Professor of Sociology
California Polytechnic State University
Haya Stier's picture Haya Stier Professor of Sociology and of Labor Studies
Tel Aviv University
Herbert J. Gans's picture Herbert J. Gans R S Lynd Professor Emeritus and Special Lecturer
Columbia University
Ivan Szelenyi's picture Ivan Szelenyi Dean of Social Sciences; Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, Yale University, UCLA
New York University, Abu Dhabi
Janet Currie Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs; Chair, Department of Economics; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research; Director, Center for Health and Well Being
Princeton University


Poverty - Other Research

Title Author Media
Employment Relationships in the New Economy David Neumark and Debbie Reed

Employment Relationships in the New Economy

Author: David Neumark and Debbie Reed
Publisher: Labour Economics
Expanding Homes and Increasing Inequalities: U.S. Housing Development and the Residential Segregation of the Affluent Rachel E. Dwyer

Expanding Homes and Increasing Inequalities: U.S. Housing Development and the Residential Segregation of the Affluent

Author: Rachel E. Dwyer
Publisher: Social Problems
Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs Paul Willis

Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs

Author: Paul Willis
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Publisher: Metropolitan Books

Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity. Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job - any job - can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity - a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival.

The Brave New World of Work Ulrich Bech

The Brave New World of Work

Author: Ulrich Bech
Publisher: Polity Press