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date: 26 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the impact of antipoverty programs on income poverty in the United States. Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that trends in per capita expenditures for the major means-tested and social insurance programs have shifted away from the very poor and unemployed toward the elderly and disabled. Since 1984, antipoverty policy has directed resources toward those just below the poverty line and the near poor (100 to 150 percent of the poverty line) at the expense of those at the very bottom of the income distribution. Means-tested programs, such as Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, have reduced overall poverty very modestly but their poverty-reducing impact on their targets has been more substantial. Social Security and Medicare have been the most effective social insurance programs for reducing poverty. The disincentive effects of antipoverty programs on the overall poverty-reducing impact of the social safety net are negligible. For the near poor, who are more likely to be attached to the labor market, the incentive effects of means-tested and social insurance programs are more significant.

Keywords: antipoverty programs, income poverty, poverty rates, antipoverty policy, poverty alleviation, social insurance

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