Publications

Public Policy Brief Highlights No. 46A | November 1998

Self-Reliance and Poverty

Net Earnings Capacity versus Income for Measuring Poverty
The United States' official poverty measure defines the poor in terms of a family’s actual, yearly cash income relative to an estimate of the income needed to sustain a minimally acceptable standard of living. An alternative definition, designed to reflect a family’s ability to achieve economic independence, would instead rest on its capacity for generating income. Net earnings capacity (NEC) is an indicator of the income a family could earn if all working-age family members work full-time, full-year, at earnings consistent with their age, education, and other characteristics, with an adjustment made for child care costs. NEC is not intended as a replacement for the official measure, but as a supplement. The official measure identifies the population in need of short-term monetary assistance, whereas NEC identifies the population in need of longer-term skill-enhancing assistance in order to become self-reliant. Two general policy approaches to reduce the prevalence of NEC poverty are to increase the level of education and other income-generating characteristics of those with low earnings capacity and to increase the returns they receive for work.

Publication Highlight

Working Paper No. 887
Trump’s Bait and Switch
Job Creation in the Midst of Welfare State Sabotage
Author(s): Pavlina R. Tcherneva
March 2017

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