Wednesday, May 09, 2018

New Evidence Shows Anti-Poverty Programs DO WORK!

Republicans like to tell Americans that the anti-poverty programs of the federal government have not been effective in reducing poverty. They are wrong! Those programs have been very effective. Consider this article by Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times (a part of which is posted below):

Few U.S. government efforts are consistently more vilified than anti-poverty programs. They're dismissed as ineffective and ridiculed as giveaways to undeserving recipients.
A new paper puts the lie to these assertions by showing that the nation's most important anti-poverty efforts all succeed in serving their goals — in the case of Social Security, spectacularly. The authors, Bruce D. Meyer and Derek Wu of the University of Chicago, used administrative statistics from six major programs to demonstrate that five of the six "sharply reduce deep poverty" (that is, income below 50% of the federal poverty line) and the sixth has a "pronounced" impact among the working poor.
The programs that reduce deep poverty are Social Security; Supplemental Security Income; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is what commonly is known as "welfare"; housing assistance; and food stamps, or SNAP. The sixth is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps mostly families that earn around 150% of the poverty line. (That line is about $25,100 in annual income for a family of four.)
In each case, Weber and Wu found that the effect of each program has been materially underestimated by traditional measurements. That's because the earlier estimates are based on Census Bureau surveys that underreport benefits from these programs. As a result, the authors say, the effects of food stamps and TANF are underestimated by one-third to one-half, and the impact of Social Security is underestimated by as much as 44%. Their research covered 2008-13, the period of the Great Recession. . . .
These findings are important because all these programs, with the possible exception of the EITC, come under constant attack by budget-cutters and other conservatives. The claim is that, despite the expenditure of trillions of dollars in public funds, the poverty rate has barely budged in more than a half-century. . . .
Meyer and Wu find that Social Security alone has reduced poverty among the elderly by 75%; the other programs do more for non-elderly households, though at lower rates. . . .
The official measurement indicated that the poverty rate fell by a scant 4.4 percentage points from 1960 to 2010, ending at 15.1%. Adjusting for flaws in the measurement however, Meyer and Sullivan determined that the percentage of Americans living in poverty had fallen by more than 26 percentage points, to about 4.5%.

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