One of the most common debates that has occurred in the United States for the past six decades is the discussion of the poverty rate. As the narrative goes, the US has an unusually high poverty rate compared to equivalent nations in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Although it’s true that the measure of poverty is flawed, especially when compared cross-nationally, this piece addresses the reasons why the poverty rate in the US in particular has not improved.
If we look at the graph below, we see that official poverty rates fell 44 percent between 1960 and 1969 then spent the next fifty years fluctuating between an 11 and 15 percent poverty rate. It’s this lack of improvement over a five-decade period that is interesting, especially considering that poverty rates had consistently been dropping for over a century.