Nearly 50 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson launched a "War on Poverty" in his State of the Union Address. At the time, the national poverty rate was around 19 percent. The poverty rate, or Americans living below the poverty threshold set by the U.S. government, fell to 11.1 percent in 1973, but has since risen above 15 percent.
In today's lesson, Robert D. Plotnick, a professor of public policy at the University of Washington says "it disappoints me to say that the study of poverty in America is still a vibrant academic pursuit." Plotnick demonstrates how poverty is popping up in some unexpected places, like the suburbs, and is disproportionately impacting certain groups such as the elderly and low-skill male workers.
"It shouldn’t be this way," Plotnick argues. Not only do we need better funding and continued efforts to develop more effective programs to help students and low skill workers, Plotnick argues we also need to measure income better. In other words, the definition of poverty ought to reflect what it really means: "not having enough income to be part of mainstream society."