New evidence shows that our anti-poverty programs, especially Social Security, work well

Ronald Reagan’s quip from his 1988 State of the Union address has adorned reams of Republican screeds against government poverty-fighting programs: “The federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won.” The truth is, however, that poverty has lost.

poverty reduction by program
Social Security (OASDI) has the greatest anti-poverty effect on almost all households, followed by food stamps (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and housing assistance. (Meyer and Wu, NBER)

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.

Read more (Los Angeles Times) »

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