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Reasons for Reform: Improving Opportunity in America

October 08, 2015

Here’s an idea: welfare reform. Though a rewrite of our welfare system is an ambitious goal, too many Americans are trapped in poverty without the opportunity they deserve. So it’s time we do something about it.

Right now, dozens of programs spend billions of taxpayer dollars every year to help those who need it most. But they aren’t delivering the results we need. Our system doesn’t promote the work and earnings families need to lift themselves out of poverty. It doesn’t promote upward mobility and personal growth. In the end, it’s helping too few to actually achieve the American idea.

It all adds up to record numbers of Americans still stuck in poverty—now in the seventh year of what President Obama promised would be a full economic recovery. Solving this problem is a huge challenge that will require commitment from all sides and a greater understanding of the issues. To bring it into focus, we’re launching a new series of posts on the reasons we need welfare reform.

As the evidence shows, poverty is the reality for far too many—and that fact constitutes just one reason to engage in a new round of work-based welfare reform. So here are the first five straightforward Reasons for Reform:

  1. Last year, over 46 million people in the United States lived in poverty.


2. Right now, there are 9.4 million more Americans living below the poverty line than in 2007 — the last year before the recession.


3. The percentage of people living in poverty in 2014 was the highest it has been in the last 20 years, besides the years immediately following the recession.


4. One out of five children lived in poverty last year, continuing a devastating trend seen in each year of the Obama presidency.


  1. Black children are three times more likely to be in poverty than white children.


Simply put: Too many Americans are stuck in poverty. And unfortunately, the list of reasons doesn’t stop here. So keep an eye on your inbox, because over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting more reasons why we need “welfare reform 2.0,” and what we’re doing to get there. Rewriting our poverty programs so we can help people move from welfare to work is a big and challenging task—and we think right now is the time to get started.