War on Poverty

The US is more than what you have seen from those Hollywood movies, and it is more than just an empire state.  2014 release Economic Report of the president gives people a closer look over the poverty progress issue in the United States.

Figure 1: Poverty Map of USFigure 1: Poverty Map of US

It has been fifty years since president Lyndon Johnson launched his “war on poverty”. This War on Poverty has “ushered in a new era of Federal Government leadership in providing income and nutrition support, access to education, skills training, health insurance and a myriad of other services to low-income Americans.”

According to this report, there is no doubt that the material conditions in poverty have improved: the percentage of the poor with indoor plumbing has risen from 58 percent in 1960 to 99 percent in 2011; infant mortality in counties with the highest levels of deprivation has fallen from 23.2 per 1,000 in 1969 to 9.1 per 1,000 in 2000; and today all American children in poverty have access to affordable health insurance, as do poor adults in states that have taken up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But compare to other most advanced economies, American’s definition of poverty is harsh: the European Union measure the people falling below 60% of median income are in poverty, if America use this definition, its poverty rate would be more than 12% higher. The figure below shows that the US poverty rate is above the OECD countries’ average.

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Additionally, the income gap between the rich and poor became increasingly large, while the US government did not do much to improve this situation.

 Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 4.13.09 PM

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This Economic Report of the president also highlighting the limitations and difficulty in official measure poverty, for tracking progress in the War on Poverty.

The report points out that the official poverty measure (OMP) has several flaws that “distort our understanding of both the level of poverty and how it change overtime”, such as it only base on pre-tax income and cash transfer without considering non-case transfer; it also ignore the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which limits its usefulness for historical comparison. Compared with this, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is more reasonable. It uses more accurate measure on income sources. The SPM gives us a more positive picture than OPM does. Since 1967 SPM poverty has declined by 10%.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 3.33.03 PMHowever, no matter how to measure the US poverty in which way, after year around 2000, the poverty rate either went up or stay the same. Most importantly, I think both these two poverty measurements should focus more on the  population segments, realizing the racial and ethic difference, also gender (women) and age(senior people) difference. Because they are the people who struggle with poverty in their lives mostly.






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