No Money No Love

A row over Bill Clinton’s landmark welfare reform highlights how much deprivation survived it

DANIELLE HUGHES wanted to graduate from high school. But after gangsters shot up her family home in New York, her mother ordered her to grab her baby son and flee. Now living with relatives in Baltimore, the 21-year-old single mother has no qualifications, no stable job and, having unsuccessfully sought government aid while interning as a receptionist, no prospect of a steady income. “I feel like I have lived through so much already,” she says. She has applied for a job as a cashier, but, in a city where the unemployment rate among blacks is twice that among whites, is not optimistic. “Sometimes you feel like giving up.”

A dismal feature of this year’s election season is how little either of the main candidates has raised the endemic poverty that underlies such tough stories. Almost 15% of Americans are poor, including one in five children, and almost one in three households headed by a woman. That represents a level of deprivation, which rises and falls with the economy but has never dipped into single figures, higher than that of almost any other developed country.

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