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Updating Poverty

When the official poverty numbers are released on September 10th, it is possible that more Americans will be counted as poor than at any time since the early 1960s. The Census Bureau will certainly report that poverty is on the rise. But these figures will not tell the whole story. The economic crisis has increasingly made poverty a realistic worry for many of those who thought they were safely outside its grasp. Many more families will be confronting the combination of job loss, rising debt, and economic insecurity. One of the challenges of the fight against poverty is to identify a set of effective policies suitable for both good times and bad. Now more than ever we need access to resources that help people move up the economic ladder and into the financial mainstream. From a policy standpoint, we may be in better shape than it seems. Even as poverty has been largely off the political agenda in recent years, it has been a time of quiet experimentation and fresh thinking. These efforts have produced a number of strategies that hold promise, such as in the fields of asset building which have identified a series of impactful incentives, policies, and programs that help families move into the economic mainstream. An additional challenge is how to see that these ideas make progress in the political context and recent experience has generated insights in this process as well.
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