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Social Policy and U.S. Poverty 1960-1999: An Economic History

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  • Jaynes, Gerald D.

    (Yale University)

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    Abstract

    Interrogates poverty debate (growth versus redistribution) reignited by underperforming poverty reductions during 1980s' social spending austerity compared to 1960s' "War on Poverty." Growth and inequality explain 75% 1959-1999 poverty variation; census measurement changes 17%. Significantly, census measurement changes plus overestimated inflation biased-up 1980s measured poverty (deflated 1960s) partly explaining eighties' underperformance. Growth's poverty effect remained constant; rising inequality required 1980's growth 50% higher (1960s) for equivalent poverty reductions. Counterfactual simulations 1959-1999: absent rising earnings inequality, growth drives poverty to 5.4%; increased workerless households offset two-thirds poverty reduction from cash transfers; had Carter and Reagan redistributed like predecessors, poverty reduced one-half.

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    Paper provided by Yale University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 90.

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    Date of creation: May 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:yaleco:90

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    1. Elizabeth T. Powers, 1995. "Growth and poverty revisited," Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Apr.
    2. repec:ese:iserwp:2001-17 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Thornton, James R & Agnello, Richard J & Link, Charles R, 1978. "Poverty and Economic Growth: Trickle Down Peters Out," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 16(3), pages 385-94, July.
    4. Rebecca M. Blank & Alan S. Blinder, 1985. "Macroeconomics, Income Distribution, and Poverty," NBER Working Papers 1567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Sawhill, Isabel V, 1988. "Poverty in the U.S.: Why Is It So Persistent?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1073-119, September.
    6. Rebecca M. Blank, 1991. "Why Were Poverty Rates So High in the 1980s?," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_57, Levy Economics Institute.
    7. Danziger, Sheldon & Gottschalk, Peter, 1986. "Do Rising Tides Lift All Boats? The Impact of Secular and Cyclical Changes on Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 405-10, May.
    8. David M. Cutler & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "Macroeconomic Performance and the Disadvantaged," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 1-74.
    9. Jäntti, Markus & Jenkins, Stephen P., 2001. "Examining the Impact of Macro-Economic Conditions on Income Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 364, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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