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Addressing the Four Types of Poverty in America

By Stephanie Edelman Zarate

This month many circles are discussing the new brief on “Poverty in America“.  To begin to understand and address this complex issue, we need to start by framing the problem (even in an imperfect way!).  This overview of four categories of poverty  includes the factors and circumstances that cause poverty, and the types of individuals and families who might fall under each category. The varying degrees and circumstances for each show that a one-size-fits-all government solution is not effective to solving the crisis today.

Bob Woodson of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, outlines four categories of poverty in his testimony before the United State House Committee on the Budget:

  1. Unexpected setback, such as job loss
  2. Stuck in the poverty trap, through generations of government dependence and policy that discourages work
  3. Disabled and mentally ill, who truly need assistance
  4. Alcoholics, addicts and others who choose this way of life and need to make a change

Examples are illustrated below:

poverty chart

Source: Budget Committee Report, Expanding Opportunity in America

For more details and context on each category, see The Policy Circle’s newly published brief  “Poverty in America: Creating Opportunity” which is part of the suggested May topic of discussion: Removing Barriers to Opportunity.

What do you think is the best solution for each type of poverty?   Are you currently involved in helping address poverty in your community?  Let us know by commenting below!