Anti-poverty Policy Initiatives for the United States

Over 40 million Americans live in poverty with limited opportunities for upward mobility. With an economy characterized by large numbers of unstable and low-wage jobs, a fraying social safety net, and stagnant wages, what public policy reforms might increase the number of low-income families and individuals out of poverty? This special double issue of RSF, edited by poverty researchers Lawrence M. Berger, Maria Cancian, and Katherine A. Magnuson, includes many innovative, evidence-based anti-poverty policy proposals crafted by leading social science researchers and policy analysts. The policies proposed in these issues provide an evidence-based blueprint for anti-poverty reforms that would benefit millions of people in need.


The difference between the natural sciences and the humanities is the difference between motion and motive. Laws of motion can explain the trajectories of asteroids and atoms. The trajectories of human beings, like those of any animals with some degree of sentience, are explained by motives. Asteroids and atoms go where they have to go. Human beings go where they want to go.

.. If you want to stimulate the economy, you can cut taxes and hope that individuals will spend the money on consumption. But they may hoard it instead. Such uncertainty does not exist in the case of inanimate nature. If you drop a rock from a tall building, there is no chance that the rock will change its mind and go sideways, or retreat back to the top, instead of hitting the sidewalk.

All human studies are fundamentally branches of psychology. That is why the great German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey distinguished theGeisteswissenschaften — the spiritual or psychological sciences — from theNaturwissenschaften — the natural sciences.

Dilthey argued that the essential method in the human sciences or studies isVerstehen, “understanding” in the sense of insight based on imaginative identification with another person. If you want to understand why Napoleon invaded Russia, you have to put yourself in Napoleon’s place. You have to imagine that you are Napoleon and look at the world from his perspective at the moment of his decision. The skills that this exercise requires of the historian or political scientist are more akin to those of the novelist or dramatist than those of the mathematician or physicist.