HuffPost says Shaefer’s work on extreme domestic poverty inspired $2 billion federal proposal

January 13, 2016

The Obama administration has announced plans for a $2 billion initiative to test new approaches to fight poverty in the U.S., citing Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin’s recently published book about Americans living on $2 a day.

White House officials say the proposed initiative, which is being called the Emergency Aid and Service Connection, will be included in the President's budget request when it is sent to Congress in early February. The initiative is designed to focus on reaching families on the brink of crisis, and linking them with short-term aid and connections to programs that offer long-term income stabilization strategies. The program would do this by funding and evaluating state and nonprofit approaches to poverty alleviation.

According to the Huffington Post article, "There have to be better ways to fight poverty. The White House wants to find them," a senior White House official pointed to Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin’s research on extreme poverty in the U.S. as a major inspiration for the program. Shaefer and Edin's book, Two Dollars a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, details the lives of Americans living in poverty in the wake of welfare reform.

The people profiled in the book “had been working – and wanted to work – but because of the instability in their jobs and the instability in their family lives, they had lost a job and things had spiraled out of control from there. One woman, a mother, lost her job because she missed work since a housemate had used up all the gas in the shared car,” Shaefer said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "We found a lot of examples where these people had turned to families and friends for help, and it turned out really badly."

H. Luke Shaefer is an associate professor of social work and public policy. His research focuses on the effectiveness of the United States social safety net in serving low-wage workers and economically disadvantaged families. His recent work explores rising levels of extreme poverty in the United States, the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other means-tested programs on material hardships, and barriers to unemployment insurance faced by vulnerable workers.

--Story by Afton Branche (MPP '17)