September 2011, Shawn Fremstad

Reducing poverty substantially is not a small project. Unfortunately, only 1 percent of Americans point to “poverty” when asked about the most important problems facing the nation. This presents anti-poverty activists with a strategic problem: we need major policy reforms to substantially reduce poverty, but hardly any Americans – including, it must be said, those officially categorized as poor – view “poverty” as a major issue.

The good news is that most Americans currently point to “jobs” or the “economy” when asked to identify the most important problem. The poverty rate is largely determined by job availability and job quality – specifically unemployment, median earnings, and wage inequality, which explain most of the trend in poverty over the last several decades – so poverty is actually best understood within a jobs and economy framework.

This paper looks at two general recommendations for doing this.

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