Law Professors

Why are 15 Percent of Americans Still in Poverty? Low-Wage Jobs Partly to Blame, Law Prof Says

Fifteen percent of Americans are in poverty, a number that would be higher without programs like Social Security and food stamps, according to a law professor’s op ed.

Still, it’s easy to question whether the nation has won the war on poverty, Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman writes in the New York Times. He sees four reasons why progress is difficult:

1) An “astonishing number” of people working in low-wage jobs. Half the nation’s jobs pay below $34,000 a year.

2) The rise in households headed by single parents. More than 40 percent of families headed by single mothers are in poverty.

3) The “near disappearance” in cash assistance to needy families. In the mid-1990s, more than two-thirds of children in poor families received welfare. Now, only about 27 percent receive cash payments.

4) “Persistent issues of race and gender.” Minorities are “disproportionately poor,” although more whites are poor than minorities.

Edelman says the challenge is to get the middle class to vote with the poor. “As long as people in the middle identify more with people on the top than with those on the bottom, we are doomed,” he writes. “The obscene amount of money flowing into the electoral process makes things harder yet.”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.