“We don’t have a chance in hell …”, Canada’s poverty reduction strategy needs real voice

Source: https://twitter.com/ESDC_GC/status/1364596131590791171

The Minister of Employment and Social Development in the Canadian federal government, Ahmed Hussen, recently tabled an annual report taking stock of the country’s poverty reduction strategy.

The advisory council responsible for the reported dedicated it “to all those courageous people who shared their stories, successes and struggles with the Council in the hope that we would in turn share them across Canada. You are at the heart of this report.

People with “Lived experience” is how policy wonks and political staffers refer to them, stressing the importance of consulting citizens who are struggling with the challenges of living in poverty and facing the barriers of moving toward a better life.

My three-year old post explaining Canada’s official poverty line continually garners views because it ranks high on a Google search for “Canada poverty line.”

This means it gets read by a whole group of people who are not policy wonks, and often by people with “lived experience,” who often cry out and share their stories by proposing a comment for my web page, which if it has done any good helped them to realize how far below the poverty line they may well be.

I hesitate approving their comments for public viewing because of their revealing and personal nature.

But maybe I shouldn’t. They have voice, but they need to be listened to. So here is one more voice that encapsulates so much, and in many different ways, of what makes policy to the poor so important, but also reveals the limits of current actions.

Continue reading ““We don’t have a chance in hell …”, Canada’s poverty reduction strategy needs real voice”

Poverty and equality of opportunity: three pictures to motivate policy for social mobility

Read my comments presented to the Public Economics Forum on “Intergenerationally Disadvantaged: Newest Evidence and What it Means for Policy,” organized by the Melbourne Institute for Applied Economic and Social Research, on November 26th, 2019 in Canberra, Australia.

Social mobility varies across countries, but it varies in a particular way, a way that I argue is relevant for the conduct of public policy.

Inequality begets inequality. Up to 50% of income inequality is passed on to the next generation in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States, but only 20% or even less in countries like Norway, Denmark and Finland, where there is a much smaller gap between parent incomes.

Incomes are stickier across generations where inequality is higher

But different kinds of inequality matter in different ways for social mobility.

Research using the variation of social mobility within countries like the United States and Canada shows that intergenerational cycles of low income are more likely in communities that have more bottom half inequality, the correlation with overall inequality and with top end inequality being much weaker. Upward mobility is easier when the poorest incomes are not that far off from middle incomes.

The bottom line for public policy is don’t let inequality increase in the bottom half of the income distribution, indeed strive to reduce it in a way that encourages labour market and social engagement.

Continue reading “Poverty and equality of opportunity: three pictures to motivate policy for social mobility”