Nearly 20 percent of America’s children–and 13 percent of all Americans–live in poverty. Although the nation has made some progress against poverty, particularly among the elderly and female-headed families, a great deal remains to be done to move people out of poverty and up the ladder towards the middle class.
On January 30, the Center on Children and Families held a forum to examine the performance of the safety net during the Great Recession, the most severe economic downturn since the Depression of the 1930s. The event was held in conjunction with the American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS), Sage Publications, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. A recent volume of the AAPSS Annals is devoted to examining the effects of the Great Recession on macroeconomic policy, politics, the job market, household wealth, the performance of the safety net, and other topics.
The event opened with an overview of the entire volume by Sheldon Danziger, the volume editor, followed by a review of the chapter on the safety net by its author, Robert Moffitt. A panel of distinguished speakers then responded to Moffitt’s assessment of safety net performance. The focus on the safety net included attention to the magnitude and effects of increases in federal transfer payments to low-income and unemployed Americans, as well as examination of the performance of individual safety net programs. Although the safety net performed well during the recession, its prospects for the future may not be as bright, given the cuts in federal means-tested spending caused by sequestration, the recent expiration of extended Unemployment Compensation benefits, and the possible cuts in food stamp benefits that seem likely this year. The need for reforms of the safety net were addressed by the speakers.