Losing Ground, or Just Treading Water?
In his 1984 book Losing Ground, Charles Murray called "latent poverty" -- the number of people who are poor, plus those who are not poor but would be without government assistance -- "the most damning statistic." To him it showed that poverty programs were not helping people escape poverty, but rather were trapping them in dependency. Here is his graph ("net poverty" takes into account some safety-net programs that the official measure does not):
This chart paints a different picture of the 1970s than Murray's did -- it doesn't show us "losing ground." But as Wonkblog explains, it doesn't show us gaining any, either, all the way up to the present. Since the beginning of the welfare state, self-sufficiency has stagnated.
Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen