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The Safety Net’s Strengths and Limits

With poverty in the news — including a major new book on the rise of extreme poverty and the Census Bureau’s upcoming release of the latest poverty figures — our new chart book examines the safety net’s impact on poverty and hardship.

For example, the safety net cuts poverty by more than half if you correct for households’ underreporting of key government benefits in Census surveys, as the chart shows. 

The chart book also:

  • describes the antipoverty impact of individual programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and working-family tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • highlights how safety net programs not only help low-income families get by today, but also enable their children to succeed tomorrow;
  • explains that an expanded poverty measure shows progress against poverty over the past half-century that the official poverty measure masks; and
  • shows that, despite these strengths of the safety net, other countries do more than the United States to reduce poverty — suggesting that we could do more, too.