Welfare reform adopted in the 1990s has resulted in fewer people on public assistance, but also left at least 1 million children living in extreme poverty even while receiving government help.
A new report, The Rise of Extreme Poverty in the United States by H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin, says the number of households surviving on $2 per person a day went from 636,000 in 1996 (the year Congress and President Bill Clinton reformed federal welfare programs) to 1.65 million by 2011, an increase of 159%. Those households contain more than 3.5 million children.
The authors then factored in those receiving food stamps, tax credits and housing subsidies, and calculated that this assistance still wasn’t enough to keep almost 1.2 million children out of extreme poverty.
“The prevalence of extreme poverty in the United States may shock many,” Shaefer and Edin wrote.
“The simple but important conclusion is that a growing population of children experience spells with virtually no income. How they are getting by—if they are—and what are the human costs of subsisting on $2 a day or less?” they asked.