The Pittsburgh metro area received both good news and bad in the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report on poverty and income. The report showed an uptick in the region’s poverty rate, from 12.2 percent in 2010 to 12.8 percent in 2013.
Yet Pittsburgh’s median income rose from $49,780 to $51,291 over the same period, the third-largest increase among major metros. Nationally, the poverty rate slipped from 15 percent to 14.5 percent, meaning 45 million Americans are officially poor.
Reducing poverty will take new ideas, investments and commitment. Neighborhoods of so-called concentrated poverty are often caught in a culture of hopelessness, anger and despair that fosters crime, hinders development and exacts higher costs for policing, health care, incarceration and public assistance.
Government has been successful in the past in alleviating poverty. In the 1950s, the poverty rate exceeded 22 percent, but legislation introduced as part of the War on Poverty, including Head Start, helped to reduce it.
Today the government could help by raising the federal minimum wage, which continually trails inflation, and let working-poor Americans keep more of their money by expanding the earned income tax credit.
Reducing poverty is more than a moral imperative to improve the lot of struggling Americans. It serves the best economic and social interests of every community.