Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
54 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2005 Last revised: 3 Jun 2021
Date Written: October 2005
Despite robust growth in real per capita GDP over the last three decades, the U.S. poverty rate has changed very little. In an effort to better understand this disconnect, we document and quantify the relationship between poverty and four different factors that may affect poverty and its evolution over time: labor market opportunities, family structure, anti-poverty programs, and immigration. We find that the relationship between the macro-economy and poverty has weakened over time. Nevertheless, changes in labor market opportunities predict changes in the poverty rate rather well. We also find that changes in female labor supply should have reduced poverty, but was counteracted by an increase in the rate of female headship. Changes in the number and composition of immigrants and changes in the generosity of anti-poverty programs seem to have had little effect.
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