Fifty years ago economic growth in America was leading to rising wages across the income spectrum and progress towards broadly shared prosperity. In that context the nation launched a series of Great Society initiatives to expand opportunity to those who were still being left behind – and to improve the lives of all Americans.
Over that decade poverty in America declined substantially, from 22% of the population to 14%. But, beginning in the 1970s, our economy changed and wages stopped growing with the economy. The gap between the very wealthy and everyone else began to grow, and poverty has increased.
MassBudget’s new report From Poverty to Opportunity: The Challenge of Building a Great Society traces how the economic and policy changes since the launch of the Great Society have affected the lives of people at all income levels in Massachusetts.
While we see real success from a number of programs, including SNAP (Food Stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit that are lifting hundreds of thousands of people above the poverty threshold, far too many children remain poor or near poor. In the years since wages for low and middle income workers stopped growing with the economy poverty and child poverty have increased in Massachusetts.
Poverty puts children at risk for poor health outcomes, higher risk for dropping out of school, and a greater likelihood of a lifetime of poverty. And when children don’t have the opportunity to reach their full potential we undermine the long term strength of our economy.
To read the report, please click HERE.