The national poverty report produced by the Census Bureau in September showed the poverty rate to have fallen from 14.8% to 13.5% between 2014 and 2015. This was much welcomed news after more than a decade of very little improved economic opportunity for those at the lower end of the wage and income distribution.
While most attention at the time was paid to the drop in the poverty rate, the report’s appendices indicate the number of poor persons in the U.S. fell by more than 3.5 million from 2014 to 2015. Recent progress on poverty should bolster support for the safety net and encourage us to do more.
My 2009 book, “Out of Reach,” examined why it can be hard for poor families to get help from the safety net. One critical barrier is the lack of information about local program resources and nonprofit social service organizations. Good information is key to finding help, but it’s also important if we are to target resources effectively and assess if program investments were successful.