33-4 Welfare “Relief” programs to help the poor began in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Many programs were created and others greatly expanded in the 1960s and 1970s.
33-5 What is Poverty? Is it an absolute concept that is the same across the world or Is it a relative concept that depends on the incomes of others in the area? Can we say an American is poor if they have a living standard that is higher than the average person in the rest or the world? A poor person today has a higher living standard than an average person had 100 years ago. Does that mean that today’s poor person is not really poor?
33-6 Measuring Poverty Poverty Line: that level of income sufficient to provide a family with a minimally adequate standard of living –The poverty line was originally established in the 1960s. –Surveys indicated that poor families of four spent an average of one-third of their income on food. –A survey established the cost of a minimally adequate diet and that figure was multiplied by 3 to get the poverty line. –Similar surveys established the poverty line for other family sizes. –The figure is updated annually for inflation using the CPI.
33-7 Poverty Lines 2007 Family of –4 the poverty line is $21,230 –3 the poverty line is $16,530 –2 the poverty line is $13,540 –1 the poverty line is $10,590
33-8 Measuring Poverty (continued) Poverty Rate: the percentage of people in households whose incomes were under the poverty line. In 2007 it was 12.5% Poverty Gap: the amount of money that would have to be transferred to households below the poverty line to get them out of poverty. In 2007 it was $65 billion.
33-9 Who’s Poor Those under the poverty line are disproportionately –Women A poverty rate 2.7 points higher than that of men –Children a poverty rate 9% higher than that of adults –Minorities a poverty rate 2.5 times higher than that or whites –High School Dropouts a poverty rate 2 times higher than people who graduated high school and did not attend college.
33-11 Problems with our Measures of Poverty Concerns that suggest the poverty rate is understated –Child care costs are a bigger issue with today’s poor than those who were poor when the original poverty line was established.
33-12 Problems with our Measure of Poverty (continued) Concerns that suggest the poverty rate is overstated –Americans under the poverty line consume more protein, have more living space, are more likely to have air conditioning than the average European. –Updates are based on the CPI which has consistently overstated the increase in the cost of living. –The measure only counts income and not wealth. There are nearly a million “poor” who own homes worth more than $150,000. –The measure only counts cash income and does not count the non- cash amounts people get from programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. –The method of calculation misses a large proportion of income that we know exists.
33-14 Concerns that suggest the poverty rate is overstated for some and understated for others –The measure treats as equal the incomes of residents of high cost cities and low costs towns. This overstates rural poverty and understates urban poverty. –The measure uses the overall CPI, which includes goods the poor cannot afford. In some years, the prices of goods bought by the poor rise more than the CPI and in other years it rises less. Problems with our Measure of Poverty (continued)
33-15 Poverty in the United States vs Europe Timothy Smeeding used a variety of measures of poverty to compare poverty in the United States and Europe. Adjusting for currency values and prices he noted that poverty rates are higher in the U.S. than Europe.
33-16 In Cash Programs for the Poor Temporary Aid to Needy Families –A program that gives money to states for them to work with the poor. If there is a “welfare check,” this is the program that grants it. Supplemental Security Income –A program that gives money to widows, orphans and the disabled. Earned Income Tax Credit –A program that gives to recipients money in the form of a tax refund that is much greater than the taxes they had withheld.
33-17 In Kind Programs for the Poor In-Kind transfers : provisions of goods and services in forms other than cash –Women, Infants and Children (WIC): vouchers allow people to get basic food products for pregnant women, new mothers and their children. –Food Stamps: vouchers that enhance the recipients ability to buy food –Medicaid: free health insurance –Section 8 or Housing Authority housing: subsidized housing. –Head Start: subsidized day care and preschool –School Lunch: free breakfasts and lunches at school
33-18 Relative Costs of Cash and In-Kind Programs Total Costs of the programs $522 billion –Cash programs $100 billion –In-Kind programs $422 billion
33-19 Why Spend $522 Billion on a $65 Billion Problem Cash transfers would cost the government less to administer. Much of the benefit of the Medicaid goes to children in households just above the poverty line. Giving cash does not serve the goals of those helping the poor because Americans generally –believe the poor would waste the money. –believe the poor would not spend the money on their children. –feel better giving people what they need rather that what they like.
33-20 Is $522 Billion Even A Lot? Compared to European spending on poverty programs, $522 Billion is not that much. The US system of taxes and programs reduces poverty by only 26% whereas European programs reduce poverty by 60%
33-21 Myths, Incentives and Disincentives Fact: Having a child can make someone who is ineligible for a welfare program eligible for that program. Fact: Having an additional child increases the amount of aid recipients are eligible for. Myth: People have (more) children to get (more) welfare. –Though economists recognize an incentive to have, or to have more children, they have generally found little evidence to support that conclusion.
33-22 Welfare Cheat or Saint? An oft-told story –You are standing in line behind someone buying steak, shrimp, etc. with a food stamp card. –They get into a new car. Could be evidence of welfare fraud Or The actions of a foster parent (legally entitled to food stamps and other welfare benefits for the welfare-eligible child in their care.)
33-23 Welfare Reform An optimal a welfare program would –be sufficiently funded to solve the problem of poverty –provide an incentive to leave the program –be politically sustainable by not putting an excessive burden on taxpayers. The three can not be simultaneously met in the U.S. and the second has typically been the aspect sacrificed. –Prior to 1996 reform a person who worked part-time would have most of the benefit of working taken away because their benefits would be reduced. –After 1996 reform a person must show they are working or seeking work. Those who work part-time generally get to keep many of their welfare benefits. They must leave many programs within 2 years.
33-24 Evidence on 1996 Welfare Reform 1996 Welfare reform included –Work requirements and incentives Work activity by the welfare eligible has increased substantially since 1996.