Augustine's notion that it is the duty of the individual to aid those less fortunate than themselves is expounded upon in the essay "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" by Peter Singer.
It is not about income poverty alone.(SJS) Throughout this essay I will explore why Poverty is a primary issue when striving for Social Justice and how, we as professionals, can attempt to overcome this by working together to achieve a fairer more just society.
Education is a supply-side policy; it improves the quality of workers, not the quality or the quantity of jobs. A danger of overreliance on education in the poverty debate is that skilled workers end up all dressed up with nowhere nice to go.
In our most recent version of "The State of Working America," we borrow a technique from economists Sheldon Danziger and Peter Gottschalk for analyzing the roles played by multiple determinants of poverty. Their method parses out the roles of race, family structure, economic growth, and inequality, and we add the role of education.
Education is only a partial cure for poverty because of all the other recent changes in the labor market. At least half of the inequality increase has taken place within groups of comparably educated people, and since 2000 that proportion has been increasing. Income-inequality data show that the concentration of income in 2005 is the highest it has been since 1929. Yet research that Lawrence Mishel and I conducted shows that since the late 1990s, the college wage premium has been flat. In real terms, college wages were up less than 2 percent from 2000 to 2006. Even among the highly educated, only some are getting ahead, and lots aren't.
As the chart on the right shows, family poverty rates did not fall much between 1969 and 2000, because major factors were offsetting one another. Improved education lowered family poverty by almost 4 percentage points, a considerable effect. But economic growth and inequality had considerably larger effects. Growth in the overall economy lowered poverty rates by 5.7 points, while inequality raised it by 5.1 points. Family structure added 3 points to family poverty rates over these years, and race added 1 point.
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This finding makes intuitive sense: Programs that combine general education with training specific to both the individual and his or her local labor market work better than ones that fail to combine these activities. (They're also more expensive, but you get what you pay for.) Yet to get to the nub of the strengths and limits of education and poverty reduction, we need to go back to first principles and think about how they interact with the realities of the political economy.
Nobody doubts that a better-educated workforce is more likely to enjoy higher earnings. But education by itself is a necessary insufficient antipoverty tool. Yes, poor people absolutely need more education and skill training, but they also need an economic context wherein they can realize the economic returns from their improved human capital. Over the past few decades, the set of institutions and norms that historically maintained the link between skills and incomes have been diminished, particularly for non-college-educated workers. Restoring their strength and status is essential if we want the poor to reap the benefits they deserve from educational advancement.
Decompositions of this type are far from definitive; they tend to hold one factor constant and see how things change, then do the same for another factor, etc. But in this case, the results are demonstrative of the main point regarding education in the poverty debate: It's an important part of the story, but it's not the whole story, or even the most important part.
Economists may disagree a lot on policy, but we all agree on the "education premium" -- the earnings boost associated with more education. But what role can education play in a realistic antipoverty policy agenda? And what are the limits of that role?
What it does show is that poverty can’t explain away America’s lackluster academic performance. That excuse, however soothing it may be to educators, politicians, and social critics, turns out to be a crutch that’s unfounded in evidence. We need to stop using it and start getting serious about improving the achievement of all the nation’s students.
For those educators quoted at the beginning of this essay, the answer is yes. They assert that the U.S. has a sky-high child-poverty rate compared to other developed countries.