Luke Shaefer was among a handful of national experts cited in a New York Times online op-ed exploring the current state of poverty and inequality in the United States. In “How Poor Are the Poor?,” published Wednesday, columnist Thomas B. Edsall covers the often “politically explosive and ideologically charged” considerations enmeshed in the poverty discussion.
While poverty experts generally acknowledge that there has been some improvement in the condition of the poor over the past 50 years, notes Edsall, “there are disagreements over how many poor people there are and the conditions they live under.”
Edsall cites Shaefer’s research (done with Kathryn Edin of Johns Hopkins University), which found that two policy initiatives – welfare reform and expanded tax credits for the working poor – implemented during the past two decades have produced “winners and losers” among the poor. And the policy losers, the very poor who are without work ineligible for welfare benefits, are “struggling desperately.”
Edsall quotes Shaefer and Edin’s writing directly when illustrating the division: "Edin and Shaefer write that among the losers are an estimated 3.4 million 'children who over the course of a year live for at least three months under a $2 per person per day threshold.'”
Luke Shaefer is an assistant professor of social work who teaches a course on social welfare policy at the Ford School. His research focuses on the effectiveness of the United States social safety net in serving low-wage workers and economically disadvantaged families. Shaefer’s recent work explores rising levels of extreme poverty in the United States.