America's Poor and the Great Recession

America's Poor and the Great Recession

America's Poor and the Great Recession

America's Poor and the Great Recession

Synopsis

Millions have entered poverty as a result of the Great Recession's terrible toll of long-term unemployment. Kristin S. Seefeldt and John D. Graham examine recent trends in poverty and assess the performance of America's "safety net" programs. They consider likely scenarios for future developments and conclude that the well-being of low-income Americans, particularly the working poor, the near poor, and the new poor, is at substantial risk despite economic recovery.

Excerpt

The “Great Recession” officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. A slow recovery is underway, but the severity and extended duration of the downturn have inflicted long-lasting damage on individuals, families, and communities.

This book examines the impact of the Great Recession, including its aftermath, on low-income people in America. Our focus is not only the well-being of the chronically poor but the near poor, the working poor, and the “new poor”—the millions of families who have entered poverty because of the Great Recession’s record high levels of long-term unemployment. We explore whether the hardships triggered by the Great Recession have disproportionately affected the same subgroups that have been harmed by previous downturns: men, blacks, Hispanics, young people, and those with few skills and low levels of educational attainment. We also explore regional variations in adversity, highlighting which states and regions of the country have been harmed the worst and the least.

Our focus on the welfare of low-income populations is not intended to deny or overlook the adverse impacts of the Great Recession on other groups in society. Wealthy Americans have watched the value of their stock holdings decline sharply; middle-class Americans may have seen the value of their principal asset, their home, plummet; and working-class Americans, if they have escaped poverty, may have lost their job and been foreclosed upon. Since one book cannot cover everyone, we have chosen to apply what Harvard philosopher John Rawls calls the “difference principle”: a special focus on the well-being of the least advantaged group in society, people living in households with low incomes.

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