Since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the “war on poverty” in 1964, the share of U.S. children living in poverty has been cut in nearly half. According to analysis from the D.C.-based think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the reduction in child poverty is largely due to various safety net programs created as part of Johnson’s Great Society initiative, as well as several key refundable tax credit programs aimed at low-income working families with children.
The effect of federal subsidies and tax credits on poverty in America can be assessed with the supplemental poverty rate, a measure of poverty that takes into account government assistance and refundable tax credits as well as expenses and cost of living that is meant to provide a more accurate picture of how many families have the resources available to meet basic needs. The supplemental poverty measure can also reveal the states where poverty is worse than you think.
The subsidies and tax credits measured by the supplemental poverty rate include the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), housing subsidies, school lunch subsidies, energy subsidies, subsidies from the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, the earned income tax credit (EITC), and the child tax credit.
To determine the states where public programs lift the most children out of poverty, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the change in the number of children living in poverty as measured by the supplemental poverty rate and the number of children living in poverty when anti-poverty subsidies and tax credits are factored out with data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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