Starting the Clock: Cutting Poverty in Half in Ten Years

Oct 31, 2011

By Elizabeth Kenefick

Last week the Half in Ten Campaign officially started the clock on its goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years. It released its inaugural annual report, Restoring Shared Prosperity: Strategies to Cut Poverty and Expand Economic Growth, establishing a baseline and the indicators the campaign will use for measuring its success. With 15.1 percent of the population, a record 46.2 million people, living below the federal poverty line in 2010, it is a daunting but extremely worthy task.

Building upon the list of policy recommendations from a diverse group of national experts and leaders the Center for American Progress convened back in 2007, the priorities outlined in this inaugural report fall into three categories: create more good jobs, strengthen families and communities, and promote family economic security. Each category has its own set of indicators that Half in Ten will use to analyze progress over the next decade.

The campaign correctly recognizes that a good job is not only a ticket out of poverty, but a critical component of ensuring our nation's economic security. However not all jobs are equal and many low-wage workers still earn too little to adequately provide for their families. The problem requires a comprehensive solution comprised of investments and access to training, workplace flexibility, and employment benefits. As a result, the campaign will track progress on this area by looking at high school and postsecondary education graduation rates, the number of disconnected youth, unemployment and median wage data, presence of paid sick days, and more.

Given the important role a family has in providing a healthy and stable environment for our nation's children to prosper, the Half in Ten campaign will also focus on policies that strengthen families and communities. A low-quality job only exacerbates the challenges that a working parent already faces. Policies aimed at the ‘unmanageable costs' low-income parents face, such as housing, transportation, and child care are just one component in ensuring a stable environment for our nation's children. Over the next decade the campaign will look at indicators such as teen birth rates, health insurance coverage, youth in foster care, and the number of dual-income families with incomes still below 200 percent of poverty as they measure progress in this category.

Finally, Half in Ten will monitor indicators of economic security and opportunity, "the base upon which to arrive and stay in the middle class." Recognizing that hard work is not sufficient for some to avoid destitution, the campaign will look at everything from nutrition assistance programs to housing security that help families and individuals when they face periods of hardship. These programs are designed to prevent families from falling into poverty when they are in dire circumstances beyond their control.

CLASP commends the Half in Ten campaign and shares its goal of ensuring shared prosperity and reducing poverty in our nation. Such an ambitious goal requires not only political will but broad recognition that the nation as a whole is stronger when fewer families are struggling and all have access to opportunity.


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