The latest issue of Stanford University’s Pathways, a magazine featuring articles about poverty, inequality, and social policy, perfectly echoes a number of the key messages in our recent report, Five Facts Everyone Should Know About Poverty.
An article by Marianne Page, deputy director of the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis, for example, calls into question the “common mantra [that] the only enduring solutions to poverty are economic growth and the jobs it delivers.” Page shows that economic expansions reduce poverty less than they did in the past partly because a growing share of the new jobs pay low wages. Similarly, our Five Facts report shows that poverty in California is more often due to low-wage work than to a lack of employment. Like Page, we argue that reducing poverty will take policies that boost workers’ earnings, such as continuing to increase the state’s minimum wage and establishing a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Hilary Hoynes, professor of public policy and economics at UC Berkeley, demonstrates the resounding success of the federal EITC in another Pathways article, suggesting that it “may ultimately be judged one of the most successful labor market innovations in U.S. history.” Hoynes writes:
The effects of EITC extend well beyond simple income support and poverty reduction. … It leads to various improvements in the mental and physical health of mothers. It brings about a reduction in low birth weight among infants. And it improves the performance of children on cognitive tests. This burgeoning body of work suggests, then, that income support programs have benefits that extend well beyond an increase in cash flow for families in poverty.
With evidence like that, it’s no wonder that half of all states have created their own EITCs to further leverage the benefits of the federal credit. And it’s why California should do the same. Poverty is a problem state policymakers can address if they choose to prioritize investments in proven strategies.
— Alissa Anderson