U.S. poverty has held steady, despite growing income inequality, says Sheldon Danziger in New York Times op-ed

September 17, 2013

Sheldon H. Danziger's New York Times op-ed, "The Mismeasure of Poverty," suggests that the recent Census Bureau report on the 2012 U.S. poverty rate—at 15 percent—is inaccurate because it doesn't reflect the value of poverty interventions like food stamps (which allow families to redirect their money to other needs) and the earned-income tax credit (which can provide families with up to $3,000 per year).

Some politicians are using the Census Bureau figures to criticize these anti-poverty programs, Danziger explains. They say that these programs are costly, and haven't had an impact on the poverty rate in America. Taking poverty interventions into account in the measure, however, reveals that the poverty rate has held stable, in spite of growing income inequality.

"All things being equal, such programs…should have reduced the official poverty rate across generations. But all things have not been equal," says Danziger. "Although these programs help the poor, poverty remains high because inequality of economic outcomes has increased sharply since the 1970s." Danziger goes on to suggest ways to address America's growing income inequality.