How much has the U.S. poverty rate declined?

Official percent poor in 1964: 19.0%

Official percent poor in 2013: 14.5%

Reduction to correct for:

Value of noncash benefits – 3.0%

Omission of refundable tax credits – 3.0%

Replacing CPI-U with PCE index – 3.7%

Adjusted percent poor in 2013: 4.8%

That is adapted from a Christopher Jencks review, “The War on Poverty: Was It Lost?”, in the 2 April 2015 New York Review of Books.

Do any of you know a good link-accessible version of comparable information?  By the way, here is Ross Douthat on money and culture.


Given the criticisms of the OPR, doesn't it make sense to look at the SPM instead?

The OPR provides a longer time-series and a consistent measure, but it doesn't adjust for issues like increased housing costs or transfers like the SPM.

Interesting on Page 9 to see how using the SPM changes state poverty rates. For example, it reduces poverty at least two percentage points in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, & West Virginia. It increases poverty at least two percentage points in California, DC, Florida, Hawai'i. Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, & Virginia.

Thanks jos, I hadn't been aware of this measure.

That's one way to look at it, I guess. But was the goal of the War on Poverty to paper over poverty with transfers, or to reduce the percentage of people who are unable to support themselves and their dependents?

Both, I think. Absolute poverty was a sizable concern as recently as 1964, especially for the elderly.

Poverty was associated then with lack of sufficient goods. Now it's associated with having problems.

Poverty is culture specific, not absolute. A poor person in the USA is rich in the Philippines, where the average wage earner (for a family) makes about USD $4k a year. Here eople sleep under bridges, bathe in the open, or in black rivers (from pollution), kids run around in the street naked, even in Manila, and even the dogs are underfed here. Poor kids sometimes have weird growths on their head or skin conditions that look disgusting. That's absolute poverty yet nobody seems to complain. In the USA they'd be up in arms. You get propositioned here by 13 yr old girls all the time (I do), looking to make a big score by landing a foreigner so they can get money for a relationship and/or blackmail. Often their parents are nearby. I'm half surprised nobody has kidnapped me yet, but unlike in Mexico they don't have at least in Manila a kidnapping culture yet.

As for why you haven't been kidnapped, read "The Ransom of Red Chief."

That is a good question. I found LBJ's SotU speech from 1964 where he lays out the goals of the WoP, and it seems to emphasize jobs as the main goal. He certainly didn't emphasize that we should make things more comfortable for those who don't work.

I found some work by Robert Rector about the reduction in poverty due to welfare reform in the mid-90s. That is an example of a program that reduced poverty by getting people to take jobs.

Poverty rates had been declining well before the WoP. How low would they have gone in its absence? At the margin, how many remained impoverished due to the WoP?

"But was the goal of the War on Poverty to paper over poverty with transfers, or to reduce the percentage of people who are unable to support themselves and their dependents?"

When giving people jobs so they have money is called socialism or communism, then the only other alternative is giving them stuff or money for not working.

Conservatives consider government jobs socialism or worse, but government giving out money is something they love as long as its in refundable tax credits.

"Given the criticisms of the OPR, doesn’t it make sense to look at the SPM instead?
The OPR provides a longer time-series and a consistent measure, but it doesn’t adjust for issues like increased housing costs or transfers like the SPM."

No. SPM is measuring something completely different, relative poverty (ie, x% of median income). OPM is measuring absolute poverty. Both are interesting but they are not substitutes for each other.

And, of course, if you want to measure changes over time then you've pretty much got to go with the time series that covers the period you want to compare, no?

This is incorrect on both counts.

Both SPM and OPM are absolute income-poverty measures; the SPM is not a percent-of-median-income measure.

And here's one of a few recent papers laying out an "anchored" SPM, which projects SPM data back to the late 1960s:

Take-away = income poverty has declined from 26% to 16%.

I really don't understand the fixation on getting a certain number of people above some theoretical line. It's clear to anyone that the vast majority of sane people in this country have what they need to survive.

These arbitrary lines mask the dysfunction and decay that is going on among the lower classes. Someone could write a very compelling book looking into the family histories, the changing fortunes and prospects of the girls recently caught on tape beating another girl at a Brooklyn McDonalds. I suspect all of them live in homes that are above the adjusted poverty line but are they really better off? Doubtful.

Oh well I'm a dumb black guy that grew up poor what the heck do I know?

Narratives like yours are racist and you are a race traitor according to Progressives and Social Justice Warriors. That's why we can't talk about that sort of thing.

Which progressives? Never heard one say that.

And if the minority do not have what they need to survive, what is needed is to legalize creative destruction: euthanasia and sale of body parts to the highest bidders.

Mulp what does a person really need to live? You do realize the 1 billion people live on $2/day, right?

If you thought the first two paragraphs could inform the discussion, why sabotage it with the third. A people with a history of being manipulated carry many sensitivities, real and imagined, to broaching such a subject.

Douthat: "The post-1960s cultural revolution isn’t the only possible “something else.” But when you have a cultural earthquake that makes society dramatically more permissive and you subsequently get dramatic social fragmentation among vulnerable populations, denying that there is any connection looks a lot like denying the nose in front of your face." Notice how Douthat acknowledges "something else", and then ignores whatever it is and repeats the reliable standby, culture. It's true that when I was growing up in the 1950s African American families mirrored white families, it's just that the former were poorer. And African American parents wanted the same things for their children as white families: a good education, a good job, a successful and happy life. What happened? Did the social changes, the "social revolution", of the 1960s damage the African American family and culture. Yes, but not in the way promoted by Douthat and other conservatives. The 1960s created the promise for African American that they could have the same aspirations, the same education and jobs, the same prosperity as white Americans, but it was a promise unfulfilled: the words in the Declaration of Independence, the sanctions of a law, the orders of a judge, the prayers of parents could not overcome a deeply ingrained racism. It's promise unfulfilled that damaged the African American culture. As Peter Thiel says, failure does not build character, failure is "powerfully demotivating".

What a load of shit.

Commenting on your own comment was very meta of you.

Yes, racism is so deeply ingrained that it is implausible to think an African-American might ever become CEO of a mammoth and archetypically American corporation such as McDonald's, or even President of the United States.

Yes if you eliminate all successful African-Americans from consideration the balance of the group tends to be unsuccessful. I think the argument goes something like that.

If they are successful, they are white. The logic of idiot SJW's, Progressives, and Feminists is always circular.

Douthat sounds like Myron Magnet's 1993 The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass, which might be summarized, "when the rich sneeze, the poor get sick." People who come from a successful background can afford to do things that people with less to back them up can't.

And, yes, a little like Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1965 The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.

It’s true that when I was growing up in the 1950s African American families mirrored white families, it’s just that the former were poorer.

Not really. The Black illegitimacy rate of 20% in 1960 sounds low when compared with it's current rate of 70%, but it was still much higher than the White rate at the time, which was 2%. The same stereotypical behaviors associated with Blacks now were associated with them back then.

Except of course for the 80% of black children in 1960 that had two parents, right?

They couldn't overcome their bad genes. The social structures which used to highly regulate the behaviors of those with bad genes in a paternal way were removed.

At the top end people adapted in a way that at least eliminated most of the early train wrecks of the social revolution (divorce, etc) though has resulted in a slow bleed. Delayed marriage and low marriage rates prevent divorce, but also lead to dysgenic fertility rates amongst the upper classes along with a host of more subtle philosophical and psychological problems (hence all the anti-depressent Rx).

However, at the bottom end these people never stood a chance. Aristotle said it was better for a man to be led by another's reason then no reason at all. We had an experiment where people were allowed to lead by their own reason but in which there were powerful social institutions and norms which heavily guided that reason, training wheels on the bike. When you took away the training wheels the sharper children could at least manage to pedal along without a catastrophic crash, the weaker ones couldn't.

Asdf, very well put. Do you see society needing to bring back the training wheels or are we to the point that society is Darwinian and people who have the right genes will manage to navigate a society with more traps and pitfalls like drugs and divorce while others won't? In other words has society just decided that nature should decide, not nurture?

The problem with Darwinist solutions is where do you draw the line. If you make things cutthroat you end up with a cutthroat society. And cutthroats don't care much about playing by bourgeois liberal rules, or really any rules outside the most brutal laws of the jungle that can't be squared well with modern civilization.

I don't know the solution. I don't know how to come up with stable and effective Schelling points that balance the benefits of "all men are created equal" against its obvious falsehood. You might as well ask me to re-write the entire enlightenment from scratch.

Or put another way, some solution will be developed by trial and error in society one way or another, and it might be really messy. The rest of us can only guess and don't have much control over it.

Genes do no work in your comment. It's clear you aren't a biologist. Why not just drop the neo-social-darwinist framing -- it would be more convincing that way.

Genes don't affect time preference? Self-control? Ambition? Drug addiction?
I think they do. Societal institutions used to curb the deleterious affects of having these genes but those institutions are gone. We are back in the jungle but instead of lions and tigers we have heroine and HIV.

So if genes are the problem (questionable) but institutions can curb them, then why not build up the institutions again?

Like family and church?

There's no such thing as "bad genes".

"There is no such thing as bad genes"

A comment so incredibly and obviously wrong that I wonder if this is a bad troll-job?

So, pray tell, what makes a gene bad? First, should probably tell us what you think the word gene means, because I'm nearly certain its wrong, or at least vastly oversimplified.

Maybe you should stick to what you know (whatever that may be -- Iowa personal injury law, was it?)

You really intend to have this argument? According to numbers thrown around in the media, humans and chimpanzees share 96% of their genome. Unless you think humans and chimpanzees are equal life forms, I've already proved that there are bad genes, and I haven't even touched on subjective preferences in human attributes, but I'm sure that's where you would love to go. I'm sure you imagine you can prove that I'm a racist, but I'll just assert that some things are hereditary, and some things suck - like diseases, or being short.

Chimpanzees and humans are different life forms. As are humans and ants. There's no global ranking from bad to good. Either educate yourself or at least have the decency to shut the fuck up.

You could address diseases and (empirically) undesirable traits, but I suspect that 1. you can't, and 2. your reaction is so knee-jerk that you are incapable of having a discussion on the matter, period.

Re: Genes don’t affect time preference?

All humans, except those suffering severe pathological injury or disease to the brain, and excluding those beyond the youngest age range, have the ability to anticipate the future and make choices based on it. In fact, most higher animals do to, which is why they can be trained. "Time preferrence" is something learned, not inborn.

By the way the drug is "heroin" (a "heroine" is a lady hero), and if we have HIV today, what about our ancestors who knew huge epidemics syphillis? Nothing new under the sun.

Humans are not preprogrammed robots and our behavior is not rigidly predetermined. The Right occasionally preaches an ethic of Personal Responsibility, but that seems to be forgotten when a jug of Old Racism 100 proof beckons.

Growing up on my plantation in the South, whenever I would see a young black child reach for a physics book I would slap his hand and tell him to get back to hanging out on the street corner with his pants on the ground. You caught us rayward. We like paying higher taxes to support a gigantic welfare state. We like decay and failure in our inner cities. We love losing friends and family to murderous gangs. Rayward, you nailed it!



(-1)^(depth-1)+depth, assuming that the outermost comment has depth=0.

Keith, like the most of the commentators above you, it's all black and white for you. Was that defensiveness the only thread spinning out of raywards comment available to an intellect such as yours. MR Commenters are on the whole highly educated, well read and capable of sustained discussion until the subject touches on the third rail of race, then it's all black and white, and resentments quickly overwhelm reason. Given the egg can't unscramble, some grey, beige and off-white discussion would sorely improve the potential for mutually beneficial outcomes.

Are you serious? There are people willing to discuss things, and then there are people who will immediately call anyone who fails to 100% agree with them, a racist, a sexist, a scientific racist, HBD'r, Red Pill, MRA, etc, etc, etc, (I'm sure you know a few more of these things to call us).

So if this: "could not overcome a deeply ingrained racism." is true how did black Americans come to dominate the most desirable jobs in the USA? Those being NCAA and Professional Basketball and football players?

BTW Blacks do great in the USA. They just seem to value things differently. they seem to succeed where they want to. Also @Clover blacks to very good in Barbados so it is not all genes.

Black Americans invented blues, rock & roll, jazz, hip hop and rap. They add great grace to our sports and entertainment. Most are not poor and most black crime is perpetrated against blacks. They join he military, police and do nursing. They are a great contributors to the USA overall.

BTW Rayward might really be a conservative testing ideas.

We live in a time when employees of Walmart, the nation's largest employer, require food stamps to get by - and Walmart employees hold canned food drives for fellow employees. It is extremely disingenuous to say that the "corrected" US poverty rate today is 4.8%. This suggests that eternal reliance on government handouts is solving the poverty problem. It is not.

Employers need to pay living wages. The stockholders may complain, but working poor in America deserve better.

Wal-Mart is raising all wages.

For the lower end above minimum wage, I mean.

Yes - to $10/hour - so 40 hours a week x 52 weeks (if they offer paid vacations for full-time, not sure on that) = $20,800 pre-tax income. They're rich!

Wal-Mart's are mostly located in areas will significantly lower cost-of-living. $20K will never be a lot, but two $20K incomes is higher than the median household income and is a more than a comfortable lifestyle in those places. Not bad for a job that requires exactly zero skills.

Median household income is 51K.

I'd be suspicious if the median household income really were somehow less than two full-time minimum wage laws. (It's theoretically possible, but I'd still be suspicious.)

Median household income is 51K.

Not in areas where Wal-marts are most prevalent. That's the key. And Wal-mart is paying above minimum wage in these areas.

So you want the rich to be forced to pay the poor $250k per year for work that isn't worth it? That's what I'm getting from your comment.

Oh nos! They make the same amount as the median European! How will they survive?

I consider myself rich when I made less that that adjusted for inflation because I had lived in Honduras for a while.
Last time look (a few years ago) the University of Florida said that prospective students should plan to spend about $11,000/year for off campus living expenses. That buys a wonderful life here in Gainesville FL.

Whenever I hear the demand that employers pay "living wages" I wonder if all the dead people who have had to scrape by on less will suddenly be resurrected. But I know that they really mean "do you call that living?" You have to admire the principles of a person who insists that someone else pay more so that the man of principle can rest easy knowing he is among the righteous.

Also completely ignoring the unintended consequences, i.e. higher consumer prices and fewer jobs.

I bet you would not talk like that if you would work for Walmart...

Again, special interests≠national interest.

If I worked for Walmart and didn't like the rate of pay, I'd look for a job somewhere else. (Rocket surgery, I know.)


It is always about taking OPM and allocating it as their random beliefs dictate. Progressives are, in general, huge failures and badly, badly, desire power. They know that in a world of free exchange they have failed, so they use force at every opportunity to enact their beliefs.

Pure evil.

loool...this comment says a lot more about the commentator than about progressives ;) (or maybe just trolling)

If you're talking about the distant past, do bear in mind that people actually did starve, and died young of disease. And if you're talking about the more recent past, remember that the cost of living was lower, often a lot lower. In 1980 it took c. 40 hours working at the median wage to afford the median rent. Today that number is over 100 hours of median wage work.

I have heard this quote so many times, I want to know where it came from-and what data there is to support this. How many employees were surveyed? How many are on food stamps? Family size? Background? Location?

We live in a time where Progressives attempt to constantly redefine words, here "require". As if Walmart employees would drop dead if not for food stamps. Someone tell the 50% of the world that earns less than an American minimum wage worker that they are all actually dead.

On Google Scholar, seach "poverty meyer sullivan." Their Brookings Papers piece has discussion:

From the Douthat link:

"Between 1979 and 2010, for instance, the average after-tax income for the poorest quintile of American households rose from $14,800 to $19,200; for the second-poorest quintile, it rose from $29,900 to $39,100.

"Meanwhile, per-person antipoverty spending at the state and federal level increased sixfold between 1968 and 2008 — and that’s excluding Medicare, unemployment benefits and Social Security. Despite some conservative skepticism, this spending did reduce the poverty rate (though probably more so after welfare reform). One plausible estimate suggests the rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012, and child poverty fell as well.

"These trends simply do not match the left-wing depiction of a working class devastated by Reagonomics. Nor does the long-term trend in insurance coverage, or per-student spending, or other data. The left sometimes claims that the income instability of working Americans is unprecedented, for instance — but a 2007 Congressional Budget Office estimate found “little change in earnings variability” over the preceding decades."

I'd like to see Douthat live on post-tax income $39K a year (he would fail to live on $19K a year.)

Nearly a quarter of American children live in poverty - and this at the poverty rate, not near poverty. It is simply blind to state that poverty is not an American issue today. The working class has been absolutely devastated by Reaganomics.

How so? Was the income of the poor rising pre-Reagan?

If there was no Reagan, we'd be more like much of Europe. Less unequal as a country, but leas rich too.

Don't have kids if they will drive you into poverty. Seems obvious to me. $39k is plenty for a single person (yes even in the NYC or SF MSAs).

"Nearly a quarter of American children live in poverty"
-Does this count non-citizens?

I’d like to see Douthat live on post-tax income $39K a year (he would fail to live on $19K a year.)

I have, in my adult post-college life, lived on much much less than that. I even managed to save something, too.

Reagan left office in Jan of 1989. There have been not one but two democratic presidents, both who had pretty strong support in congress at various points, since then.

So Reagan is such a *powerful* figure his leadership overwhelms Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

What next, many of current problems are caused by lingering devotion to the polices of Harding? Hoover? Lincoln?

39,000 dollars post-tax per year? I could live in every major city of the USA for that. Outside of obvious enclaves such as Beverly Hills, Upper East Side, Alpine NJ, etc. I could easily live in a middle-class area for that price.

If you don't work in the United States, and you have a child, you can get:

Food Stamps
Free electricity
Pell Grants

etc, etc, etc. If having all of your physical needs taken care of, and then some, without working even 1 hour per week, is poverty, well, never mind, you're an idiot.

Wow you are so clueless and snobby that you can't imagine living on $40k/yr post-tax

Are you serious? maybe you are really a conservative making he worst arguments for Democrats
Look here:
We should reform our gov programs and give more to the poor even while spending less because we can afford it not because the USA poor are doing to bad.

Well, this should make both sides pretty uncomfortable.
1) The people on the right who claim the war on poverty doesn't work.
2) The people on the left who claim that there are still a huge and increasing amount of poor people.

I have these questions:
1) Do these poverty programs cause family breakdown?
2) Do they also cause income stagnation on the lower end?

There is no cause for discomfort among the economic Right, maybe among the social Right (since they seem to view government failure at alleviating poverty as a good argument for more restrictive social mores). Either the War on Poverty has failed or it has been successful. If it has failed, then we should try something else. If it has been successful, then we should be reaping the "peace" dividend, where declining poverty leads to fewer people in need of social programs. In short, the success of the War on Poverty is measured by the decline, if any, in the number of people that are dependent on it.

The "discomfort" around the War on Poverty stems from the fact that it has lasted 50 years. That makes the Left's seemingly permanent view --- that while the gains from the War have been limited so far, success is just around the corner --- increasingly implausible. A state of permanent warfare, whether of the foreign policy or anti-poverty variety, does not comprise a successful policy.

I'm not sure the left would agree with your definition of success.

If people aren't getting off programs, it's because the economy isn't providing well paying jobs., not because the war is failing.

"I’m not sure the left would agree with your definition of success."

I think the Left would disagree with themselves. If the topic is whether success in the War on Poverty means eventual reduction of government social spending, then you may be correct: many of the Left would probably disagree. However, if some conservative claims that the Left's vision of the War on Poverty is to create permanent dependence on welfare, then the Left would also disagree. I'm not sure what the Left's answer is to the fairly straightforward (and fundamental) question, "What is the endgame (and, hence, criterion for measuring success) of the War on Poverty: (1) elimination of need for social welfare for almost all people, except for perhaps a very small percentage of indigent people, or (2) widespread dependence on welfare?" Hard to fight a war when one doesn't know the objective.

On both the 'left' and the 'right' there is a widespread belief that the economic policies of the other side have been implemented and are thus a cause of the Problems. But here's some actual data:

Actual poverty in terms of deprivation of goods has probably declined over the last 45 years. But in 1970 people were much more optimistic about the future that people are today. They saw the technological and economic progress that occurred in the century so far and assumed it would continue. They did not assume that in the futuristic year of 2015 large portions of the population would be told that they were too poor to have children.

If the problem, then, is the Great Stagnation, both sides are wrong. Its neither values nor social policies that are the problem.

>>> Do these poverty programs cause family breakdown? <<<

The common worry. I believe the converse is the problem. CBS reported that 100,000 out of what I would guess 200,000 Chicago, gang age males are in street gangs. This many people are not pathologically self-destructive. I believe this is because American born (would be) employees wont go to work for wages now $3.50 an hour below LBJ's fed minimum -- going on fifty years and DOUBLE THE PER CAPITA INCOME later.

Essentially, all minimum wage jobs have been outsourced to India or Mexico. Like all taxi jobs to Pakistan, Africa, Russia. The year after I came to Chicago in 1980 the city raised the taxi meter to $2.35 a mile in today's money; 90 cents nominally. Over the next 16 years, until 1997 it allowed one 30 cent raise -- at which 1990 midpoint the city started building subways to both airports, opening up unlimited limos, putting on free trolleys between all the hot spots downtown AND adding 40% more taxis! I had to EMIGRATE to San Francisco to driver a taxi. Today's Chicago meter: $1.80 a mile -- 50% growth in per capita income later.

Anyway, getting back to the original point, the ghettos seem to have been created less by generations on welfare thing than by a minimum wage that fell behind Malthus by early 2007. Population expanded from 200 to 300 million since the 1968 minimum wage peak; Malthus says one-third drop in wages -- not almost in half.

Don't get me started on de-unionization.

The problem with your post is that poverty is down even before accounting for social programs.

Please see comment just below for reliable stats.

"Don't get me started on de-unionization."

I'll get you started. Unions are the reason why there was all that outsourcing you complain about.

Germany with the densest union environment isn't dying from outsourcing. I look at outsourcing as the equivalent of automation -- just switches demand for our labor somewhere else -- don't know if I'm right.

Reason for high wages at many lost manufacturing jobs may be they were worked by high testosterone, combative males (e.g., my old Teamsters 804 -- strike happy). Not really needed once we get into centralized bargaining -- where all employees doing the same work locally negotiate one common contract.

Just for fun: outsource this: :-)
[cut and paste]
Why do economists never look at the medical industry as the growth industry of the future -- the un-exportable growth industry?

When it comes to products that come in shiny packages we want growth, growth, growth. But, when it comes to not being sick there isn't the same natural intuition. Last week I read of a doctor saying medical knowledge doubles every two years.

Here's an article from yesterday: Alzheimer's 'breakthrough:' noninvasive ultrasound technique restores memory in mice

This readable online professional mag has several new such articles daily:

Of course most economists are still working age and therefore young enough not to think of the volume of medical care. I took my mom to the cardiologist yesterday -- I'm seeing my PCP this afternoon. Which brings up another growth prospect: as medicine keeps patients alive longer it creates an ever larger consumer base for itself (take that John D. Rockefeller). Medical jobs pay better than average too -- the new (unexportable, rust-belt proof) factory.

Okay, okay; American (that is American, not medical science-an which latter is universal) cost twice as much as it should. I read Brill. I would not worry about what (most) doctors make; their pre-tax is only 10% of overall costs (dental folks seem to have doubled their prices in real terms over the last 20 years w/o justification -- probably watching medicine double and figured nobody would notice if they did too). If Germany wants to pay pilots more than surgeons then Germany has a problem.

Once we get drug and medical device and insurance bureaucracies costs under control then we can welcome growth in the real new high-tech economy.

BTW; nothing like this will ever take place without a German/Danish style labor union take over. May be just around the corner. Once RICO and Hobbs cases begin (if they ever begin) against union busting, all the union busters will cease and desist until they see the outcome of these cases. In the time it will take for these cases to go through the courts we can have the whole country organized.

Those cleaver Germans with their high unionization get paid less then Americans without unions. They are the lower cost outsource location that you are referring to.

How Germany Builds Twice As Many Cars As The U.S. While Paying Its Workers Twice As Much

Because auto manufacturers are the only workers? By the way German unions are way different than U.S. unions

@Denis Drew
That article is so completely and verifiably wrong that I am amazed that Forbes would publish it. The very first sentence claims that US auto production in 2010 was 2.7 million when in fact it was 7.7million ( It also compares the total compensation of German auto workers to the average wage of US workers not total compensation (

The minimum wage was raised three times under Bush. Ya happy?

I assume we are talking about Bush II. Usually raise it in multi-year segments. Fed min wage under-performed Malthus by early 2007. Population expanded from 200 to 300 million since the 1968 minimum wage peak; Malthus says one-third drop in wages — not almost in half.

Dbl-indexed is for growth and inflation
yr..per capita...real...nominal...dbl-index...%-of


If we asked Americans of 1968 what could possibly cause the minimum wage to under-perform Malthus over the coming 40 years, what might they have conjectured: a comet strike, a limited nuclear exchange, repeated plagues? :-)

Don't know what happened to that chart -- usually loads.

Boring stuff like the growth of the retail/service sector and competition from illegal immigrants. Also, apathy and the spread of neoliberalism (i.e., conventional post-1970s, pre-Bush II economic thinking).

At the risk of using up too much bandwidth, try again:

yr..per capita...real...nominal...dbl-index...%-of























There's plenty of bandwidth to be had. Maybe something to do with the complete lack of progressive policies in the emergent internet? I don't know. I'm sure German Union workers would have made an even better internet.

I completely fail to see why I should pay high taxi fares. Today, the San Francisco taxi industry has been severely hit by Uber/Lyft. As it should be: cabs in SF were outrageously priced and hard to get.

When the minimum wage rises to $15 they will have to raise the meter in NYC and Chi a dollar a mile or no more cab drivers. Guess why I "emigrated" 2,000 to another American city in 1997 to drive a cab?

San Francisco doubled the number of cabs since I left in 2004. May not help hard-to-get areas. Unlike NYC and Chi, in SF drivers wont find 90% of the riders in 10% of the geo area. The business is spread out over half the area and you have to know where it is on what day at what time of day which takes a lot of experience (I wont even go to the Escher stair case on drugs geo).

It takes a lot experience to know where to be, when. Too many cabs -- income drops -- more and more short-term drivers (instead of old vets) -- hard-to-get service area could actually drop. Theory -- haven't been there since.

I was a so-called "gypsy" in the Bronx in the 70s -- so-called because we had double the insurance (reflecting our twice as good driving records no doubt), livery plates, chauffeurs licenses and could legally pick up by radio -- mayor told cops we could pick up by hail outside core Manhattan. Uber just goes out and works illegit -- if they started on the poor side of town instead of yuppyville they would have been shut down the first day. FWIW.

Accepting and adapting to changes in the world is important to everyone but cabbies.

Anyway, getting back to the original point, the ghettos seem to have been created less by generations on welfare thing than by a minimum wage that fell behind Malthus by early 2007. Population expanded from 200 to 300 million since the 1968 minimum wage peak; Malthus says one-third drop in wages — not almost in half.

But: Why Drug Dealers Live With Their Moms gangs pay less than minimum wage.

Official federal poverty line computed at 3 X the price of an emergency diet -- dried beans only please; no expensive canned! Formula created in the fifties when I suppose it fit the bill -- officially adopted in the sixties -- when it was already going out of date; should have been indexed for growing obsolescence since year one.

According to MS Foundation book Raise the Floor , p.44, table 3-2 (mine is the 2001 edition -- you'll need to adjust) itemizing everything from transportation to taxes (not a cent for entertainment) the minimum needs line for a family of four works out to something like $50,000 if they have to pay their own health insurance.

When I checked the US Census family (3.3 persons) quintiles back then I figured that was about 42 percentile if they had to pay health -- 18 percentile if not -- make that 30 percent below poverty line, uh, minimum needs.

My quick minimum needs line: $11,000 silver plan for family of four including deductibles (Brill, p. 346), $4,000 payroll taxes, $15,000 rent and utilities -- and you haven't even put dried beans in the pot to soak overnight. :-)

US median income $26,000 (median wage $16 -- must be losing some hours, days or weeks) -- half a family's minimum needs. Half US workforce treading water, if lucky.

Have you done the calculation about what the poverty line is for a "family" with a Ferrari? What about a gram a day coke habit? A pair of elephants?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Mr Money Mustache not only disagrees, he'd like to punch you in the face.

I'll pay $1000 to watch that.

MMM has a paid off house

$50,000 is ridiculous. But then I am too lazy to actually go compute it.

A very natural expectation in a country where the median wage hovers around 26 thou -- and nobody seems to sense what is wrong.

Invariably, when people scream about the poverty wage as being 50K or even 39K, they came from incredibly privileged backgrounds and can't imagine very normal things like going to public school, two kids sharing a bedroom and bathroom (with no individual cable TV), getting clothes at goodwill, and no vacations out of the United States.

I live a life of luxury on $27,000 annual for my family of three. Thanks welfare state. Keep up the work, Dennis, I'd really like to be able to afford a $400/mo car payment too.

a family of four works out to something like $50,000 if they have to pay their own health insurance.

I spend less than that and I make a lot more than that and have a family of 4 and we take great vacations.

Speaking of McDonald's, the last Republican administration made such a hash of things that Ronald McDonald could have defeated the Republican nominee. Yet, almost half of Americans don't accept Obama as the legitimate president. Granted, many Republicans don't, not because they are racists, but because it would be too painful to focus on the hash made by the last Republican administration, it being far more palatable to focus on the Kenyan, Muslim, socialist who is trying to clean up the hash.

"the Kenyan, Muslim, socialist who is trying to clean up the hash." I doubt he's Kenyan.

The hardly-Kenyan, not-Muslim, only-vaguely-socialist is not trying to clean up any mess in any way, shape, or form. He is actively making them worse.

You know, when you started commenting here you made some sense. You are starting to sound barking mad.

The only wealth that matters is relative. Evolutions wants us to have surviving offspring. All of your instincts point in that direction. The gatekeepers to offspring, women, don't care what absolute level of wealth a man has. Only whether giving him access improves her situation in some way. There are goods a man can offer other then wealth, but again these are relative goods in a zero sum game (good looks, etc).

The fact that a poor man today can afford plentiful food doesn't help him secure a mate, which is another way of saying its useless in helping him fulfill what his whole being is oriented towards. If anything the fact that the woman can secure stable food for herself removes one of the things unexceptional provider males used to bring to the table.

As such, instead of working 10/hours a week like Keynes and people believed at the beginning of the 20th century we just engaged in ever greater wars for zero sum social status because that is how our brains evolved.

The only goods that really matter to the human mind are social status and mating access. These haven't increased in supply at all even as GDP marched ever upward. It's good that raw physical need has retreated from the lives of average people, as its total dominance made life in most times "nasty, brutish, and short." However, we've found that absent immediate physical need and scarcity people could still be "nasty and brutish" over relative status games and mate access.

Evolution doesn't want anything. It has no telos.

Enough with the just-so stories. It's not science and never was.

Evolution doesn't need a purpose for it to explain the adaptation of human behavior. His "want" was a figure of speech, clearly.

No, I think he and rest of the pop-evo-psych crowd don't understand the difference between an explanatory metaphor the underlying res. They just take their old fashion values -- racism, sexism, calvinism and so, and sprinkle in some science words.

Is there anyone in the HBD/Red Pill world with an actual Phd in biology? Anyone at all?

There was the guy with the nobel prize that you un-personed. Actually huge numbers of decorated scientists are HBD realists. Grow up, science isn't what you want it to be its what it is.

A huge number or one senile racist who did great work in x-ray crystallography (i.e. chemistry) 60 years ago?

It would take very little effort on your part to look up both the researchers and the research on this matter. If you don't want to know I can't force you to know.

And, pray tell, collateral, are you not one of the fools who anthropomorphises society? Society wants this, society should do that, etc. At least asdf has an argument to make, you just paint anyone who disagrees with you as a racist, sexist, evil incarnate, etc. You won't get any traction here with your stupidity, I'd suggest Buzzfeed or Jezebel.

Good work Thomas. Defend the prerogatives of neo-social-darwinists, who know nothing at all about biology or economics for that matter, to post in the comments section of an economist's blog whose proprietor doesn't at all agree with them.

Just take a look at the number of comments on hard economics posts, versus those posts where TC trolls you pathetic losers. I guess you take whatever entertainment you can get when you live in the heart of the midwest and have no money.

I'm with KPres. Clearly "wants" is a figurative personfication. There is no necessary implication of telos. Gotcha was unwarranted.

The phrase "nature abhors a vacuum" must drive you nuts. Darn that red-pill Aristotel.

Thanks for the insults, collateral. You are really, really funny, and your posts are really, really enlightening. You've tried to insult me by: emasculating me (cuz traditional gender roles!!!!), calling me poor, suggesting the midwest sucks, and calling me a pathetic loser. You are a paragon of Progressive Social Justice.

I believe that you can take every expression that x "evolved to" do y and substitute "God created" and not lose any explanatory power.

You'll actually lose a lot of it.

Could you elaborate?

I'd like to talk about a peacock's tail, but as collateral well knows, that's just a product of a racist and sexist society.

What's the worry about so-called poverty anyway? There's really only one reason to be concerned; that the poor (meaning those with less than others) will rebel and take what they want from those that have something during the haves' lifetime. Any other concerns are simply BS. If individuals really cared about poverty they'd invite poor folks over for dinner and let them sleep in the basement in exchange for mowing the lawn and washing the Prius. But they don't. The poor, like the government, are an abstraction. In concrete terms, no one wishes to touch them, even wearing blue latex gloves.

Yes, the only time I really think about the poor is when I see someone camped out on the street.

I wonder if the war on black people ("war on drugs" / police state) also worked... (it seems so, with the highest incarceration rates in the world...) , since this is intimately connected to the question about whether war on poverty was lost....

troll alert. At least try and make your posts interesting.

truth hurts... dont cry.

What's the truth? There are plenty of white people against the war on drugs - and they tend to be the people you like to think of as racist, because they don't believe in mass redistributive economic policy.

"Do any of you know a good link-accessible version of comparable information?"

What does it say about us that there seem to be no responses to the question? Is absence of links evidence of absence of data? If so, why?

So my take-away from Jenks' article (with which I largely agree) is that government programs have been quite effective at combatting poverty. Hmmmm...

You can not say "government programs" and "effective" in the same sentence in this blog ;)

As someone noted above, effectiveness depends on your goal. Are we trying to teach the poor to fish for themselves or are we just making sure they get their daily fish? Some might consider achieving the latter and not the former a failure. They might even say that guaranteeing a fish makes it less likely people will learn to fish at all.

Answer: their daily fish oil.

Giving money to X is a good way to ensure that X has money.

Is the goal of the war on poverty to create a multigenerational dependent class that can be depended on for votes? If so, bravo Progressives.

Even that 4.8% seems much too high to me, never the less we can afford to do more but it needs to be done intelligently so as to minimize the discouragement of work.
It is time for conservatives and classical liberals to admit that the war on poverty was won and focus on making Giv. charity better and more efficient. Most Gov. charity money does not go the middle class and rich. See:

Also time for Democrats to admit that that the war on poverty was won and instead on making it better and more efficient.

I think we could cut spending in half and not hurt the poor.

Why Eliminating the Deficit is Technically Easy but Still Politically Impossible

I wonder if Democrats would join with us if we promised to cut spending overall but increase money going to the poor?

Also Ideally most of our Government charity dollars should go outside the USA where people are must poorer (see Ray Lopez above).

Also here is a link to Tim Taylor going over some data:

And on another thing:
Is better police protection the best thing that we could provide for the poor. Better peace and safety on a corner of the roof than to live in a house without.

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