Economic Snapshot: The Social Safety Net and Its Impact on Poverty

By Kenney, Nicole | The Crisis, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Economic Snapshot: The Social Safety Net and Its Impact on Poverty


Kenney, Nicole, The Crisis


There is a prevailing myth that social welfare programs are ineffective and increase lowIncome and moderate-income Americans' dependency on government. However, this assertion is inherently flawed as research consistently proves the contrary. Social safety net programs have significantly reduced the poverty rate and continue to keep millions out of poverty.

In the 1950's, the poverty rate was a striking 20 percent for Americans and an astronomical 54 percent for African American families. In 1963, Lyndon Johnson officially declared a War on Poverty and launched the Great Society programs, which included Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid and expansions to welfare. This War on Poverty helped rectify the historical wrong of excluding racial minorities from social welfare programs and helped lift millions of vulnerable Americans out of poverty. Now, in this most recent economic recession and with income inequality reaching historic levels, poverty is back on the rise (though still significantly lower than that found in the 1950s). Approximately 16 percent of Americans live in poverty, with the rate nearly doubled for African Americans at 27 percent.

President Obama allocated more funds to social programs, such as food stamps, to help Americans weather these economic times, but more is needed. …

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