Acton Institute Powerblog

New York City’s exemplifying war on poverty

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Sign up for the Acton Newsletter

Weekly updates on Acton News and Events delivered to your inbox.

Poverty rates in America’s largest cities; such as Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Detroit; have risen in the last decade. New York City however, stands out as an exception, as its poverty rate has conversely declined. The combined actions and innovations of individuals have proven yet again to be effective in producing economic flourishing. The hope of New York City springs from the ability of people made in the image of God to use their skills and rise up out of poverty.

Believing that poverty is best combated with the rise of the job force, Robert Doar (Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute) stresses that it is not in government which we should rely, but rather in the people.

Recently, Linda Gibbs (principal at Bloomberg Associates for Social services) and Robert Doar released a four-part series, New York City’s Turnaround On Poverty, which was also featured in Washington Monthly. The series relays a battle-plan, the successful steps taken within a “data-driven” war launched against poverty in 2005. Gibbs and Doar narrate the results of a four-part plan developed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Geoffrey Canada during Bloomberg’s second term. This plan has succeeded in providing jobs and has set New York City apart from other struggling cities:

Today, low-wage workers are getting extra cash in their pockets at tax time to help support their kids. New programs are helping more workers earn their associates’ degrees to boost their wages. Better access to financial education and financial services is helping families manage their budgets and even to save. New York City also became the first local government to implement an alternative to the federal poverty measure, which prompted the U.S. Census Bureau to follow suit with a new supplemental poverty measure for the nation.

Even failed experiments which grew out of this plan helped to further target poverty as the process of eliminating and improving strategies developed.

Doar’s decision to enter the field of poverty alleviation was inspired by his father’s engagement in the Civil Rights division of the US justice department. Watching the work his father accomplished revealed the ability of people to improve their country. In Doar’s first Vision talk given at AEI in 2014 (above) he explains four foundational approaches to poverty alleviation he learned while working in welfare reform:

  1. Requiring work in return for assistance
  2. Rewarding work by making low wages go farther
  3. Stressing the importance of two-parent homes
  4. Vigilance in promoting a job-producing, growing economy in low, medium and high wage jobs

Doar also observed failures of the government, providing thousands of Americans with large hand-outs, creating dependence in the welfare entitlement state. At the end of his lecture, Doar declared that the keys to welfare reform belonged to the people.

It is a common desire to promise an outcome, to guarantee that if we do this, we will guarantee people’s rising safely into the middle class. Governments can’t promise that. They can’t guarantee that. People make that happen. People make that happen if the environment is created for that to happen…people are the heroes of welfare reform.

Bloomberg’s bravery in his war on poverty should serve as an example for other cities in America. Gibbs and Doar’s series maps out crucial foundations to understanding how cities all around America can be improved. Poverty alleviation takes place through relentless, “evidence-based” experimental stratagems which weed out welfare dependence. Change furthered by factual research and a desire to open up the market has been shown to create fertile soil for job growth, a bed of opportunities fruitful for the economy.

Caroline Roberts Caroline Roberts has a B.A. in English from Grove City College and produces the Acton Institute’s podcast, Radio Free Acton.

Comments