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[IWS] CRS: POVERTY: MAJOR THEMES IN PAST DEBATES AND CURRENT PROPOSALS [18 September 2014]

IWS Documented News Service

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Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

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Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

Poverty: Major Themes in Past Debates and Current Proposals

Gene Falk, Specialist in Social Policy

Karen Spar, Specialist in Domestic Social Policy and Division Research Coordinator

September 18, 2014

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43731.pdf

[full-text, 36 pages]

 

Summary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, but poverty remains a difficult policy

challenge. The Obama Administration and some in Congress have offered proposals that seek to

address poverty, with the proposals differing considerably in their focus and content. However,

the themes reflected in these proposals echo prior efforts to address the issue of poverty.

The terms “poverty” and “welfare” (commonly thought of as cash assistance for the poor) are

often intertwined, but federal policies affecting poverty are broader than a single program or set

of programs. In fact, the social insurance program of Social Security may be the nation’s most

important antipoverty program. The incidence and character of poverty is affected by many facets

of public life.

 

Over the last century, several watershed events have affected federal policies for the poor. These

include the enactment of the Social Security Act in 1935, creating the first federal social

insurance and federal-state public assistance programs; President Johnson’s War on Poverty

launched in 1964 that sought to address the “causes, not just the consequences of poverty” and

began a period of expansion of services and noncash benefits for the poor; the “welfare reform”

debates that began in 1969 and lasted until the mid-1990s, as societal expectations for single

mothers shifted from staying home with children to work; and the culmination of these debates in

the mid-1990s with the twin policies of requiring parents receiving assistance to work and

“making work pay” for low wage-earning parents. Most recently, the Affordable Care Act

expanded health care coverage, particularly for lower-income persons.

 

As federal antipoverty policy evolved—and some approaches were adopted, while others were

not—certain overarching themes have recurred, including the following:

 

• Universal policies versus need-tested benefits: should policies be designed to

benefit everyone, or be targeted on those with financial need?

• Income, services, or employment strategies: which of these strategies is most

effective in reducing poverty?

• Work and other behavioral requirements: should conditions be placed on the

receipt of assistance, and what behaviors should those conditions reinforce?

• Concepts of federalism: what is the appropriate balance between the federal, state

and local governments in designing and implementing programs?

• Coordination and related policies: how can multiple programs work together to

avoid overlap and duplication?

• Experimentation: how can we determine effectiveness?

• Budget considerations: what do programs cost, and how are these costs balanced

against other federal priorities?

 

The current congressional proposals and those of the Obama Administration, as well as future

proposals, can be analyzed through the framework of these recurring major themes.

 

Contents

Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 1

About This Report ..................................................................................................................... 1

Trends in Poverty ............................................................................................................................. 2

Historical Overview of Federal Policies to Address Poverty ........................................................... 5

The Great Depression and New Deal of the 1930s.................................................................... 5

The War on Poverty of the 1960s .............................................................................................. 6

Welfare Reform and Noncash Benefits in the 1970s ................................................................. 7

Promotion of Work in the 1980s ................................................................................................ 8

Experimentation and Welfare Reform in the 1990s ................................................................... 9

Need-Tested Policies in the 21st Century ................................................................................... 9

Major Themes in Poverty Policy Debates ..................................................................................... 10

Universal Policies Versus Need-Tested Benefits ..................................................................... 11

Income, Services, or Employment ........................................................................................... 13

The Income Strategy ......................................................................................................... 13

The Services Strategy ........................................................................................................ 15

The Employment Strategy ................................................................................................. 16

Work and Other Requirements for Recipients of Aid .............................................................. 18

Concepts of Federalism ........................................................................................................... 20

Program Coordination, Service Integration, and Waivers ....................................................... 23

Experimentation ...................................................................................................................... 24

Budget Considerations ............................................................................................................. 26

Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................... 27

 

Figures

Figure 1. Official Poverty Rates Overall and for Children and the Aged, 1959-2013 ..................... 3

 

Tables

Table 1. Major Recurring Themes in Antipoverty Policy Debates ................................................ 10

Table 2. Selected Policies of the Obama Administration ............................................................... 13

Table 3. Representative Ryan’s “Opportunity Grant” and Other Antipoverty Strategies .............. 17

Table 4. Pathways Out of Poverty Act (H.R. 5352) ....................................................................... 19

Table 5. Senator Rubio’s War on Poverty Speech.......................................................................... 23

 

Appendixes

Appendix. Selected Readings ........................................................................................................ 30

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This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

 




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