Over 40 million Americans live in poverty with limited opportunities for upward mobility. With an economy characterized by large numbers of unstable and low-wage jobs, a fraying social safety net, and stagnant wages, what public policy reforms might increase the number of low-income families and individuals escaping poverty? A special double issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, edited by poverty researchers Lawrence M. Berger, Maria Cancian, and Katherine A. Magnuson (University of Wisconsin–Madison) and co-sponsored by the Robin Hood Foundation, brings together many innovative, evidence-based anti-poverty policy proposals crafted by leading social science researchers and policy analysts.
The first issue highlights initiatives that restructure tax and transfer programs to extend greater support to low-income families, regardless of work status. H. Luke Shaefer and colleagues would replace the current child tax credit and child tax exemption in the federal income tax with an unconditional universal child allowance. They estimate that this would reduce child poverty by about 40 percent. Maria Cancian and Daniel Meyer propose a new child support initiative that institutes a guaranteed minimum monthly support payment for every child living with a single parent, using public funds to bridge the gap when that amount exceeds what the noncustodial parent can reasonably pay. Sara Kimberlin and colleagues propose a renter’s tax credit in the federal income tax for poor households facing increasing rental costs that would benefit 70 percent of renters struggling with high rents.
The second issue analyzes policies that would reduce the extent of low-wage work by boosting education, training, and access to better jobs. Teresa Eckrich Sommer and colleagues propose expanding the Head Start program to combine parental education, job training, and employment opportunities along with existing early childhood education programs to better serve the needs of both parents and children. Mark Paul and colleagues propose a federal jobs guarantee of full-time employment, at a living wage and with benefits, for all adults seeking work. Diana Strumbos and colleagues propose a national community college program, based on a successful model used by the City University of New York, to provide disadvantaged students who enroll full-time with advising, academic, career, and financial supports.
Together, the policies proposed in this double issue provide an evidence-based blueprint for anti-poverty reforms that would benefit millions of people in need.