What if, instead of proposing sweeping cuts to the safety net programs that help keep millions of Americans afloat, the nation’s leaders reimagined what it means to lift people out of poverty completely? That is the question at the heart of the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences’ February double–issue, which was released today (February 20).
Per a 2017 United States Census Bureau report, there were 23.3 million people of color living below the poverty line. They account for about 57.5 percent of all people living in poverty in this nation.
“Anti-Poverty Policy Initiatives for the United States” brings together experts and the findings of more than 50 years worth of studies to propose policies that, if implemented, could wipe out poverty and its attendant inequities. It’s the work of three researchers and professors from University of Wisconsin-Madison: Lawrence M. Berger (director of the school’s Institute for Research on Poverty), Maria Cancian (professor of public affairs and social work) and Katherine Magnuson (doctoral program chair for the School of Social Work).
Colorlines asked Magnuson why it felt important to delve into this topic right now:
There had been considerable scholarly attention to what had been learned about the welfare policies changes of the 1990s, but not nearly enough attention to what could be considered next. We now know that with the shift to a work-based safety net, neither the skeptics nor proponents were right about the magnitude of success (or failure) in getting poor families to support themselves through employment. But we also know that big changes in labor markets, educational institutions, families and policies have affected poor families and workers over the past 50 years, and we felt that created a window of opportunity for new thinking.
We felt it was important to bring together a set of fresh ideas that would engage with what we have learned about anti-poverty policies of the past in order to generate positive and innovative solutions. The proposals range from rather incremental to much more innovative—but ultimately, when taken together we hoped they might shift and reframe the discussion in ways that would be forward thinking. There are numerous new potential opportunities to improve the economic prospects of workers that, and these should be part of the public discussion about how best to support poor children and families.
Part one of the journal focuses on tax and transfer programs, while the second turns its lens on the topics of employment, education and family planning. The proposed new policies include the following ideas, which were highlighted in an emailed release about the publication:
- Converting the child tax credit into a universal, monthly child allowance. Drawing on research that further investment could reduce deep poverty by 50 percent and effectively eliminate child poverty.
- Increasing SNAP funding by $42 a week, which would reduce food insecurity by an estimated 62 percent.
- Increasing financial resources to children living with a single parent by broadening child support services and publicly guaranteeing a minimum amount of support per child.