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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Have we won the War on Poverty yet?

42 years of the War on Poverty.
Poverty among Americans between ages 18-64 has fallen only marginally since 1966, from 10.5% then to 10.1% today. Poverty has significantly fallen among Americans under 18 years old from 23% in 1964 to 16.3% today. The most dramatic decrease in poverty was among Americans over 65, which fell from 28.5% in 1966 to 10.1% today.

In 2004, more than 35.9 million, or 12% of Americans including 12.1 million children, were considered to be living in poverty with an average growth of almost 1 million per year.
I don't know how many billions have been spent, but it doesn't look like we've moved much except in the 65+ age group.

UPDATE: John Rosenthal discusses the premature announcement of "the end of poverty" in Europe here with special attention to France:
Nonetheless, if it has not quite succeeded in "abolishing" poverty yet, the EU has indeed managed to make a remarkably large share of poverty in Europe disappear -- that is, as far as the official statistics are concerned. Thus, the EU statistical office, Eurostat, defines the poverty line -- or rather what it more gingerly describes as "the risk-of-poverty threshold" -- not in absolute terms, as in the US statistics, but rather as 60 percent of the median national income in each country. Thus, for example, the Portuguese "risk-of-poverty" threshold for a family of four gets set at around €10,000.

Given the massive disparities in income among European countries, this convention makes for some interesting results. Whereas, for instance, according to Eurostat, a German family of four is "at risk" of falling into poverty with an annual income of €20,000, a Romanian family of four only "risks" poverty with an income roughly ten times less. (See here for a comparative chart from Eurostat including Germany [DE] and Romania [RO].) In this way, the EU has already eliminated a great deal of poverty in Romania even before the country's formal adhesion to the EU scheduled for 2007. Reason enough for the New York Times to be impressed!
Hmmm. I wonder how well How to Lie with Statistics sold to Eurostat employees?

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