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 the Great Recession Sheldon Danziger, Koji Chavez, Erin Cumberworth

Poverty and the Great Recession

Author: Sheldon Danziger, Koji Chavez, Erin Cumberworth
Date: 10/2012

Severe economic downturns, like the Great Depression, are associated with substantial increases in poverty and material hardship. Since the Great Depression, the United States has developed programs and policies, many of which were launched during the New Deal and the War on Poverty-Great Society periods, that aim to protect the poor, the unemployed, children, the disabled, and the elderly against severe deprivation. It is important to examine how these programs performed during the most severe recession the country has experienced since the Great Depression.

Tracks of Hope: The Forgotten Story of America's Runaway Train and How We Can Change its Course Speeth, Lauren

Tracks of Hope: The Forgotten Story of America's Runaway Train and How We Can Change its Course

Author: Speeth, Lauren
Publisher: The Elfenworks Foundation
Date: 11/2007
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

poverty - CPI Affiliates

Emily Hannum's picture Emily Hannum Professor of Sociology and Education; Associate Director, Population Studies Center
Univerisity of Pennsylvania
Sylvia Yanagisako's picture Sylvia Yanagisako Chair and Professor, Department of Anthropology; Edward Clark Crossett Professor of Humanistic Studies
Stanford University
Frank D. Bean's picture Frank D. Bean Chancellor's Professor of Sociology and Economics, Director, Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy
University of California, Irvine
Tim Biblarz's picture Tim Biblarz Associate Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies
University of Southern California
Gary N. Marks's picture Gary N. Marks Principal Research Fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Australian Catholic University


Poverty - Other Research

Title Author Media
The Dual Economy Averitt, Robert T.

The Dual Economy

Author: Averitt, Robert T.
Publisher: New York: Norton
A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The Split Labor Market Edna Bonacich

A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The Split Labor Market

Author: Edna Bonacich

An important source of antagonism between ethnic groups is hypothesized to be a split labor market, i.e. one in which there is a large differential in price of labor for the same occupation. The price of labor is not a response to race or ethnicity of those entering the labor market. A price differential results from differences in resources and motives which are often correlates of ethnicity. A split labor market produces a three-way conflict between business and the two labor groups, with business seeking to displace higher paid by cheaper labor. Ethnic antagonism can take two forms: exclusion movements and "caste" systems. Both are seen as victories for higher paid labor since they prevent undercutting.

Between Class and Market Bruce Western

Between Class and Market

Author: Bruce Western
Publisher: Princeton University Press
The Working Poor: Invisible in America David K. Shipler

The Working Poor: Invisible in America

Author: David K. Shipler
Publisher: Vintage Books
Outsourcing at Will: The Contribution of Unjust Dismissal Doctrine to the Growth of Employment Outsourcing David H. Autor

Outsourcing at Will: The Contribution of Unjust Dismissal Doctrine to the Growth of Employment Outsourcing

Author: David H. Autor
Publisher: Journal of Labor Economics