Essay: Strategies to Prevent Poverty

Sample Essay

Large population of Economists are willing to reduce poverty (both absolute and relative) by increasing the earnings of low skill workers and reducing the number of single parent families created by non-marital childbearing and divorce. Preventing poverty in these ways strongly resonates with American values. Efforts to spend more on income tested cash and in-kind transfers to supplement low market incomes command far less political support and, should they succeed, risk the unpleasant tradeoff between cost and disincentives that Economists view as a major limitation of transfers as an antipoverty strategy.

There can be two obstacles to pursue this strategy. One is the meager success of most training programs that seek to increase human capital and earnings of workers with low skills and other disadvantages such as substance abuse, mental illness, or a history of domestic violence. Even for programs that pass a benefit cost test, the increase in earnings they produce is on the order of $1-2,000 per year, too little to make much difference in the lives of trainees and their families. The other obstacle is lack of a viable strategy for reducing the number of single parent families. Both obstacles are severe. It would be another good idea to re-double efforts to develop earnings and family policies that have large positive effects and can be taken to scale.

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