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Down and Out in North America: Recent Trends in Poverty Rates in the U.S. and Canada


  • Maria J. Hanratty
  • Rebecca M. Blank


This paper documents the striking difference in U. S. and Canadian poverty trends from 1970 to 1986. While U.S. poverty has shown no consistent trend since 1970, Canadian poverty decreased by 60%. This paper examines why U. S. and Canadian poverty trends differed during two periods: 1970-1979 and 1979-1986. During the 1970s, we find that the principle reason for declining Canadian poverty rates is higher economic growth. During the 1980s, we find that differences in government transfers are the main cause of relative poverty change in the two countries. Virtually all of the 3.5 difference in U.S. and Canadian poverty changes from 1979 to 1986 can be attributed to differences in the proportion of families moved out of poverty by transfers. This may reflect both the expansion in social assistance levels in Canada, and the retrenchment in assistance levels in the U. S.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria J. Hanratty & Rebecca M. Blank, 1990. "Down and Out in North America: Recent Trends in Poverty Rates in the U.S. and Canada," NBER Working Papers 3462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3462
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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 1073-1119, September.
    2. Blank, Rebecca M, 1989. "Disaggregating the Effect of the Business Cycle on the Distribution of Income," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 56(222), pages 141-163, May.
    3. John McCallum, 1987. "Unemployment in Canada and the United States," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 20(4), pages 802-822, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Adapting to Circumstances (The Evolution of Work, School,and Living Arrangements among North American Youth)," NBER Chapters,in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 171-214 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Robert H. DeFina, 2002. "The impact of unemployment on alternative poverty measures," Working Papers 02-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

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