Demography

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 499–519 | Cite as

Why poverty remains high: The role of income growth, economic inequality, and changes in family structure, 1949–1999

Article

Abstract

After dramatic declines in poverty from 1950 to the early 1970s in the United States, progress stalled. This article examines the association between trends in poverty and income growth, economic inequality, and changes in family structure using three measures of poverty: an absolute measure, a relative measure, and a quasi-relative one. I found that income growth explains most of the trend in absolute poverty, while inequality generally plays the most significant role in explaining trends in relative poverty. Rising inequality in the 1970s and 1980s was especially important in explaining increases in poverty among Hispanics, whereas changes in family structure played a significant role for children and African Americans through 1990. Notably, changes in family structure no longer had a significant association with trends in poverty for any group in the 1990s.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bernstein, J., C. Brocht, and M. Spade-Aguilar. 2000. How Much Is Enough? Basic Family Budgets for Working Families. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  2. Bianchi, S. 1990. “America’s Children: Mixed Prospects.” Population Bulletin 45: 1–43.Google Scholar
  3. Blank, R.M. 1997. “Why Has Economic Growth Been Such an Ineffective Tool Against Poverty in Recent Years?” Pp. 27–41 in Poverty and Inequality: The Political Economy of Redistribution, edited by J. Neil. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.Google Scholar
  4. Blank, R.M. and A. Binder. 1986. “Macroeconomics, Income Distribution, and Poverty.” Pp. 180–208 in Fighting Poverty: What Works and What Doesn’t, edited by S.H. Danziger and D.H. Weinberg. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bluestone, B. and B. Harrison. 2000. Growing Prosperity: The Battle for Growth With Equity in the Twenty-first Century. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  6. Bradbury, B. and M. Jantti. 2001. “Child Poverty Across Twenty-Five Countries.” Pp. 62–91 in The Dynamics of Child Poverty in Industrialized Countries, edited by B. Bradbury, S.P. Jenkins, and J. Micklewright. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burtless, G. and T.M. Smeeding. 2002. “The Level, Trend, and Composition of American Poverty: National and International Perspective.” Pp. 27–68 in Understanding Poverty, edited by S.H. Danziger and R. Haveman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cancian, M. and D. Reed. 2000. “Changes in Family Structure: Implications for Poverty and Related Policy.” Focus 21(2):21–26.Google Scholar
  9. Citro, C.F. and R.T. Michael, eds. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cogan, J.F. 1995. “Dissent.” Pp. 385–90 in Measuring Poverty: A New Approach, edited by C.F. Citro and R.T. Michael. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dalaker, J. 2001. Poverty in the United States: 2000: Current Population Reports, Series P-60 No. 214. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  12. Dalaker, J. and B. Proctor. 2000. Poverty in the United States: 1999: Current Population Reports, Series P-60 No. 210. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  13. Danziger, S.H. and P. Gottschalk. 1995. America Unequal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Danziger, S. and D. Weinberg. 1994. “The Historical Record: Trends in Family Income, Inequality, and Poverty.” Pp. 18–50 in Confronting Poverty, edited by S. Danziger, G. Sandefur, and D. Weinberg. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Devine, J.A. and J.D. Wright. 1993. The Greatest of Evils: Urban Poverty and the American Underclass. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  16. Dupree, A. and W. Primus. 2001. “Declining Share of Children Lived With Single Mothers in the Late 1990s.” Research Report. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.Google Scholar
  17. Eggebeen, D.J. and D.T. Lichter. 1991. “Race, Family Structure, and Changing Poverty Among American Children.” American Sociological Review 56:801–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fields, J. 2001. Living Arrangements of Children: Fall 1996: Current Population Reports, Series P-70 No. 74. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  19. Fisher, G.M. 1995. “Is There Such a Thing as an Absolute Poverty Line Over Time? Evidence From the United States, Britain, Canada, and Australia on the Income Elasticity of the Poverty Line.” Poverty Measurement Working Paper. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/hhes/poverty/povmeas/papers/elastap4.htmlGoogle Scholar
  20. — 1997. “From Hunter to Orshansky: An Overview of (Unofficial) Poverty Lines in the United States From 1904 to 1965.” Poverty Measurement Working Paper. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/hhes/poverty/povmeas/papers/ hstorsp4.htmlGoogle Scholar
  21. Frazier, E.F. 1932. The Negro Family in Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. — 1939. The Negro Family in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Haveman, R. and J. Schwabish. 1999. “Economic Growth and Poverty: A Return to Normalcy?” Focus 20(2):1–7.Google Scholar
  24. Hogan, D. and D. Lichter. 1995. “Children and Youth: Living Arrangements and Welfare.” Pp. 93–139 in State of the Union America in the 1990s, Vol. 2, edited by R. Farley. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  25. Iceland, J. and J. Kim. 2001. “Poverty Among Working Families: Insights From an Improved Measure.” Social Science Quarterly 82:253–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson, P. and S. Webb. 1992. “Official Statistics on Poverty in the United Kingdom.” Pp. 135–54 in Poverty Measurement for Economies in Transition in Eastern European Countries. Warsaw: Polish Statistical Association and Polish Central Statistical Office.Google Scholar
  27. Jones, A.F., Jr. and D.H. Weinberg. 2000. The Changing Shape of the Nation’s Income Distribution: Current Population Reports, Series P-60 No. 204. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  28. Lampman, R. 1971. Ends and Means of Reducing Income Poverty. Chicago: Markham.Google Scholar
  29. Lerman, R.I. 1996. “The Impact of the Changing U.S. Family Structure on Poverty and Income Inequality.” Economica 63:S119–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lichter, D. 1997. “Poverty and Inequality Among Children.” Annual Review of Sociology 23: 121–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McLanahan, S., A. Sorensen, and D. Watson. 1989. “Sex Differences in Poverty, 1950–1980.” Signs 15:102–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moynihan, D.P. 1965. The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Washington, DC: Office of Planning and Research, U.S. Department of Labor.Google Scholar
  33. Myrdal, G. 1944. An American Dilemma. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  34. O’Higgins, M. and S. Jenkins. 1990. “Poverty in the EC: Estimates for 1975, 1980, and 1985.” Pp. 187–211 in Analysing Poverty in the European Community: Policy Issues, Research Options, and Data Source, edited by R. Teekens and B.M.S. van Praag. Luxembourg: Office of Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  35. Sen, A. 1983. “Poor, Relatively Speaking.” Oxford Economic Papers 35(2):153–69.Google Scholar
  36. Short, K. 2001. Experimental Poverty Measures: 1999: Current Population Reports, Series P-60 No. 216. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  37. Short, K., T.I. Garner, D. Johnson, and P. Doyle. 1999. Experimental Poverty Measures: 1990 to 1997: Current Population Reports, Series P-60 No. 205. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  38. Shyrock, H.S. and J.S. Siegel. 1976. The Methods and Materials of Demography. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  39. Smeeding, T., B.B. Torrey, and M. Rein. 1988. “Patterns of Income and Poverty: The Economic Status of Children and the Elderly in Eight Countries.” Pp. 89–119 in The Vulnerable, edited by J.L. Palmer, T. Smeeding, and B.B. Torrey. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.Google Scholar
  40. Tobin, J. 1967. “It Can Be Done! Conquering Poverty in the U.S. by 1976.” tNew Republic (June 3):14–18.Google Scholar
  41. Townsend, P. 1992. The International Analysis of Poverty. Hemel Hempstead, England: Harvester-Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  42. U.S. Census Bureau. 1998. “Households, by Type: 1947 to Present.” Internet Historical Time Series of Households and Families, Table HH-1. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/ population/socdemo/hh-fam/htabHH-1.txtGoogle Scholar
  43. U.S. Census Bureau. 1999a. “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” Internet Historical Time Series of Living Arrangements of Children, Table CH-1. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/ms-la/tabch-1.txtGoogle Scholar
  44. U.S. Census Bureau. 1999b. “Living Arrangements of Black Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” Internet Historical Time Series of Living Arrangements of Children, Table CH-3. Available online at http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/ms-la/tabch-3.txtGoogle Scholar
  45. U.S. Census Bureau. 1999c. “Living Arrangements of White Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” Internet Historical Time Series of Living Arrangements of Children, Table CH-2. Available online at http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/ms-la/tabch-2.txtGoogle Scholar
  46. U.S. Census Bureau. 2000a. “Historical National Population Estimates: July 1, 1900 to July 1, 1999.” Population Estimates Program, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. Available on-line at http:// www.census.gov/population/estimates/nation/popclockest.txtGoogle Scholar
  47. U.S. Census Bureau. 2000b. “Standardized and Unstandardized Experimental Poverty Rates: 1990 to 1999.” Poverty Measurement Research tables. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/hhes/ poverty/povmeas/exppov/suexppov.htmlGoogle Scholar
  48. U.S. Census Bureau. 2001. “Race and Hispanic Origin of People (Both Sexes Combined) by Median and Mean Income: 1947 to 1999.” Historical Income Tables-People, Table P-4. Available on-line at http:// www.census.gov/hhes/income/histinc/p04.htmlGoogle Scholar
  49. U.S. Census Bureau. 2002a. “Poverty Status of People by Family Relationship, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1959 to 2000.” Historical Poverty Tables, Table 2. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/ hhes/poverty/histpov/hstpov2.htmlGoogle Scholar
  50. U.S. Census Bureau. 2002b. “Regions—Families (All Races) by Median and Mean Income: 1953 to 2000.” Historical Income Tables-Families, Table F-6. Available on-line at http://www.census.gov/hhes/ income/histinc/f06x1.htmlGoogle Scholar
  51. Vaughan, D.R. 1993. “Exploring the Use of the Public’s Views to Set Income Poverty Thresholds and Adjust Them Over Time.” Social Security Bulletin 56(2):22–46.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HHES DivisionU.S. Census BureauWashington, DC

Personalised recommendations