The White House declared this week that the war on poverty “is largely over and a success” as it pushes for stiffer work requirements for recipients of federal aid.
In a paper released Thursday, President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers warned that too many Americans have “become reliant on welfare programs,” resulting in a “decline in self-sufficiency (in terms of receipt of welfare benefits) among non-disabled working age adults.” What appears to be the stubborn persistence of poverty since 1970 is largely a matter of bad statistical measures, the paper argues. A consumption-based measure of poverty, which takes into account non-cash federal aid and a more flexible measure of inflation, shows a far more dramatic decrease in poverty levels in the U.S., dropping from 30 percent to 3 percent between 1961 and 2016.
Many experts on poverty, however, disagree and see the Trump administration’s analysis as part of a larger effort to slash the social safety net. “There is a heck of a lot more poverty out there in this country than they are claiming. To say that we have ended the War on Poverty is totally ridiculous,” Mark Rank, a University of Washington in St. Louis professor who studies poverty, told The Washington Post.