American Poverty in a New Era of Reform

American Poverty in a New Era of Reform

American Poverty in a New Era of Reform

American Poverty in a New Era of Reform

Synopsis

This compelling survey of the problem of poverty, its costs and consequences, focuses on the implementation and initial results of the welfare reform plan of 1996. The book underscores the importance of backing up welfare reform with policies that support families' efforts to make genuine, sustainable improvements in their lives and the prospects of their children.

Excerpt

Poverty may well be America's most serious and costly social problem. Each year millions of Americans live in poverty, and hundreds of billions of public and private dollars are spent annually on efforts to assist the poor. Poverty is also causally interwoven with other costly social problems such as crime, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, out-of-wedlock births, poor educational achievement, and domestic violence. Cumulatively these problems account for a huge percentage of all governmental and charitable expenditures.

The number of poor Americans is enormous. Each year since the mid-1960s the federal government has attempted to identify those Americans living in poverty. In the latest available figures, the federal government estimated that over 35 million Americans were poor in 1997, some 13.3 percent of the population (Table 2.1; Figure 3.1). To put this number in perspective, the collective poverty population in 1997 was larger than the total population of California, almost twice the size of the population of Texas, and several million larger than the entire population of Canada.

The cost of services to the poor is staggering. Considering only the major welfare programs (e.g., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income), expen-

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