Hardly Anyone Wants to Admit America Is Beating Poverty

Most liberal pundits argue that poverty is still a huge problem and that current programs are insufficient. Their conclusion: We shouldn’t change our welfare programs, except possibly to expand them. Those on the right, meanwhile, have argued that the U.S. has spent trillions to no effect.

In fact, poverty has declined significantly over the past 50 years, but neither side has recognized the major progress that has been made. So it is heartening to see that the White House, through the CEA, has taken the step of recognizing that progress—and recommending that the existing safety net be adapted and improved in light of it.

Why has this progress been ignored for so long? A key reason is that our main measuring stick for assessing the effect of government programs, the “official poverty measure,” indicates very little improvement since the early 1970s. But this measure is misleading for three reasons.

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