Since the emergence of systematic research on poverty in the late 1960s, the absolute poverty rate has changed very little. From 1969 to 2004, the overall poverty rate increased marginally from 12.1 to 12.7 percent. Yet the composition of poverty has changed considerably over this time period. For example, 48 percent of those in poverty in 1970 lived outside metropolitan areas. By 2005, the rural poor made up only 19 percent of those in poverty. Similarly, 40 percent of those in poverty in 1970 were adults aged 18-64, whereas adults made up more than half of all those in poverty in 2005. Methods of fighting poverty also changed: job training programs of the 1970s have all but disappeared while job requirements for single mothers on welfare have become the norm.
With support from Russell Sage Foundation, leading poverty researcher Sheldon Danziger (University of Michigan) has co-edited two books summarizing research on the changing nature of poverty in the United States and the effectiveness of anti-poverty policy: Confronting Poverty (1994) and Understanding Poverty (2001). Danziger will now team up with Maria Cancian, Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to organize a conference summarizing research on fighting poverty over the last decade. The conference will provide a venue to assess trends in U.S. poverty, the current state of poverty research, and anti-poverty policies. The papers will include an analysis of how immigration will affect the overall poverty rate in the United States, changes in family structure and its relationship to poverty, and the change in the structure of economic opportunity for less-skilled workers. Papers examining the role of family policy (family leave, child care, flexible work hours) and its influence on reducing poverty will also be included, as well as an overall study of the evolution and the alteration of social safety net programs (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance) in the last decade.