Briefing Papers Number 6, February 2009

Number 6, February 2009 briefing paper Setting a Goal to End Poverty and Hunger in the United States by Todd Post U.S. Poverty Rates, 2007 24.5% Abstract 21.5% 10.5% Whites 10.2% African Americans Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute educates its advocacy network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. Hispanics 12.5% Asian & All Pacific Islanders Americans Source U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 Key Points • The United States must make a national commitment to ending domestic poverty, establishing targets for a variety of indicators (e.g. hunger, housing, education and health) that will clearly measure whether the country is achieving progress. • Overcoming poverty requires both more personal responsibility and broader societal responsibility, both better choices by individuals and better policies and investments by government. • The United States has one of the highest poverty rates among industrialized countries, while U.S. government spending on anti-poverty programming as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product is one of the lowest among industrialized countries. • The United States must develop a strategy that both helps those who are poor get out of poverty and eliminates conditions that allow poverty to persist in our communities. Todd Post is senior editor for Bread for the World Institute. One in every eight U.S. residents is living in poverty, according to the last official count conducted by the Census Bureau. But these data reflect conditions through 2007, well before the current recession. Poverty and hunger on any scale is intolerable in a country as wealthy as the United States. To reduce poverty and hunger-—and eventually eliminate them—the United States must be prepared to act more boldly than it has for several decades. Step one should be to set a national goal to end hunger and poverty, with a target date, so that progress can be tracked. Ending poverty and hunger will require a comprehensive framework of solutions, that recognizes the many factors that contribute to economic hardship, such as lack of employer-provided health insurance, poor schools, lack of affordable housing, little access to financial services, and a host of others. Goal setting is the critical first step, as it focuses the nation’s attention on outcomes and gives the public a way to hold the nation’s leaders accountable.