I have written a brief report for the Council on Contemporary Families, released today, for the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty declaration by Lyndon Johnson: Was the War on Poverty a Failure? Or Are Anti-Poverty Efforts Swimming Simply Against a Stronger Tide?
The figures include this one, showing changes in earnings by gender and education over the past two decades:
In between figures and statistics, key points:
- The suite of social welfare programs introduced or expanded in that era moved millions of people out of poverty and improved the lives of millions more who remained income-poor.
- In recent years, however, poverty has been rising once again.
- Focusing on children, our most vulnerable citizens, highlights both the strengths and the limits of our current anti-poverty programs.
- The high rates of child poverty in America highlight a basic feature about the U.S. system, and its principal vulnerability: ours remains predominantly a market-based system of care.
- And the multiplication of low-wage jobs that has come with widening inequality is a formidable obstacle to reducing poverty today.
- Despite frequent claims to the contrary, that government can play a key role in reducing poverty.
The report is paired with an excellent piece by Kristi Williams: Promoting Marriage among Single Mothers: An Ineffective Weapon in the War on Poverty? Her bullet points are:
- The rapid rise in nonmarital fertility is arguably the most significant demographic trend of the past two decades.
- How can we improve the lives of the growing numbers of unmarried mothers and their children? So far, a dominant approach has been to encourage their mothers to marry.
- The flaw in this argument is the assumption that all marriages are equally beneficial.
- Our recent research adds to the growing body of evidence that promoting marriage is not the answer to the problems facing single mothers and their children.
- A more promising approach is to focus on reducing unintended or mistimed births.
- If the goal of marriage promotion efforts was truly to lower poverty rates and improve the well-being of unmarried parents and their children, then it is time to take a different approach toward this goal.
Kudos and thanks to the Council on Contemporary Families (of which I’m a board member) for putting this together, especially Stephanie Coontz and Virginia Rutter, who did the work of coordinating, editing, and distributing the reports.