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Greenstein: Safety Net Lifts Millions Out of Poverty and Has Positive Long-Term Effects


Robert Greenstein issued a commentary today that praises columnist Nicholas Kristof for focusing recently on the problems that many poor young children face, but counters his suggestion that the current safety net doesn’t do enough to reduce poverty.  Here’s an excerpt:

Nicholas Kristof published an important column in the New York Times recently about young children in some poor communities who face greatly diminished opportunities by the time they’re just 2 years old.  “Many low-income children never reach the starting line,” he notes.

Kristof points out that there are no magic bullets and that we need well-designed studies and careful research to give us more information about what works. . . . Unfortunately, Kristof’s otherwise excellent column also contains a significant misjudgment.  He says that despite the growth of various social programs over recent decades, the poverty rate is no lower today than it was in the late 1960s, and he seems to conclude that the current system of anti-poverty programs largely addresses only symptoms of poverty and doesn’t reduce poverty itself.  However, the comparison of today’s poverty rate to the rate in the 1960s isn’t valid, and Kristof overlooks recent research showing that safety-net programs lift millions of people out of poverty and, in a number of cases, have positive long-term effects on children’s outcomes.

Click here for the full commentary.

Click here for Greenstein’s letter to the editor in the New York Times on the topic.