Subject: Revolutionary new findings on poverty
> The title's no shocker ("The Likelihood of Poverty Across the
> American Adult Lifespan") but new findings by Thomas Hirschl (Cornell) and
> Rank Washington U./St. Louis) are shocking.
> In a new study that will be published in the May 1999 issue of
> Social Work, Hirschl and Rank make the first comprehensive, statistical study
> how long people have been poor over the past few decades.
> "By age 35, nearly one third of the U.S. population will have
> experienced a year in poverty. By age 65, over half of all Americans will
have spent a
> year below the poverty line; and by age 85, two thirds. For black
> Americans who reach the age of 75, a startling 91% will have been touched by
> experience of poverty."
> What are the revolutionary implications of this study?
> 1. Poverty is not the fate of a marginalized "underclass." "Poverty
> is an experience that will touch the vast majority of Americans during their
> adult years."
> 2. Poverty is not only for minorities. While Hirschl and Rank confirm
> that poverty is more concentrated among minorities, they note that "even
> among white Americans, poverty is an event that will eventually touch half
> population....Hence, poverty is a 'mainstream' event experienced by the
> dominant racial group, and not something that can be easily dismissed as a
> condition of marginalized groups."
> 3. It can now be proven scientifically that poverty touches people
> across all boundaries of race, age, and geography. This sets the stage for a
> outpouring of writing, art, and music--much like the one that came from
> the Abolitionists--that seeks to unite everyone on the basis of their common
> economic position. "Assuming that most Americans would rather avoid this
> experience, it becomes in their self-interest to ensure that we reduce
> poverty and/or that a safety net is in place....Many Americans undoubtedly
> that encountering poverty is only a remote possibility, and therefore they
> fail to perceive the benefits of an anti-poverty policy in terms of their
> own self-interest. The research findings in this paper directly challenge
> 4. The end of the myth of the welfare queen. "At some point during
> our adult lives, the bulk of Americans will face the bitter taste of poverty.
> Consequently, unless we are willing to argue that the majority of us are
> undeserving, the tactic of using character flaws and individual failings
> as a justification for doing as little as possible to address poverty loses
> much of
> its credibility."
> Please forward this widely
> Bob Buzzanco
> University of Houston
> Department of History
> Houston, TX 77204-3785
> buzz at uh.edu
> 713.743.3216 [fax]