front cover of America Unequal
America Unequal
Sheldon H. Danziger and Peter Gottschalk
Harvard University Press, 1995

America Unequal demonstrates how powerful economic forces have diminished the prospects of millions of Americans and why "a rising tide no longer lifts all boats." Changes in the economy, public policies, and family structure have contributed to slow growth in family incomes and rising economic inequality. Poverty remains high because of an erosion of employment opportunities for less-skilled workers, not because of an erosion of the work ethic; because of a failure of government to do more for the poor and the middle class, not because of social programs.

There is nothing about a market economy, the authors say, that ensures that a rising standard of living will reduce inequality. If a new technology, such as computerization, leads firms to hire more managers and fewer typists, then the wages of lower-paid secretaries will decline and the wages of more affluent managers will increase. Such technological changes as well as other economic changes, particularly the globalization of markets, have had precisely this effect on the distribution of income in the United States.

America Unequal challenges the view, emphasized in the Republicans' "Contract with America," that restraining government social spending and cutting welfare should be our top domestic priorities. Instead, it proposes a set of policies that would reduce poverty by supplementing the earnings of low-wage workers and increasing the employment prospects of the jobless. Such demand-side policies, Sheldon Danziger and Peter Gottschalk argue, are essential for correcting a labor market that has been increasingly unable to absorb less-skilled and less-experienced workers.

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front cover of America’s Struggle against Poverty in the Twentieth Century
America’s Struggle against Poverty in the Twentieth Century
Enlarged Edition
James T. Patterson
Harvard University Press, 2000
This new edition of Patterson's widely used book carries the story of battles over poverty and social welfare through what the author calls the "amazing 1990s," those years of extraordinary performance of the economy. He explores a range of issues arising from the economic phenomenon--increasing inequality and demands for use of an improved poverty definition. He focuses the story on the impact of the highly controversial welfare reform of 1996, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President Clinton, despite the laments of anguished liberals.
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front cover of Assets for the Poor
Assets for the Poor
The Benefits of Spreading Asset Ownership
Thomas M. Shapiro
Russell Sage Foundation, 2001
Over the past three decades, average household wealth in the United States has declined among all but the richest families, with a near 80 percent drop among the nation's poorest families. Although the national debate about inequality has focused on income, it is wealth—the private assets amassed and passed on within families—that provides the extra economic cushion needed to move beyond mere day-to-day survival. Assets for the Poor is the first full-scale investigation into the importance of family wealth and the need for policies to encourage asset-building among the poor. Assets for the Poor shows how institutional mechanisms designed to encourage acquisition of capital and property favor middle-class and high-income families. For example, the aggregate value of home mortgage tax deductions far outweighs the dollar amount of the subsidies provided by Section 8 rental vouchers and public housing. Banking definitions of creditworthiness largely exclude minorities, and welfare rules have made it nearly impossible for single mothers to accumulate savings, let alone stocks or real estate. Due to persistent residential segregation, even those minority families who do own homes are often denied equal access to better schools and public services. The research in this volume shows that the poor do make use of the assets they have. Cash gifts—although small in size—are frequent within families and often lead to such positive results as homebuying and debt reduction, while tangible assets such as tools and cars help increase employment prospects. Assets for the Poor examines policies such as Individual Development Account tax subsidies to reward financial savings among the poor, and more liberal credit rules to make borrowing easier and less costly. The contributors also offer thoughtful advice for bringing the poor into mainstream savings institutions and warn against developing asset building policies at the expense of existing safety net programs. Asset-building for low-income families is a powerful idea that offers hope to families searching for a way out of poverty. Assets for the Poor challenges current thinking regarding poverty reduction policies and proposes a major shift in the way we think about families and how they make a better life. A Volume in the Ford Foundation Series on Asset Building
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