Panel Paper: Poverty Alleviation Legislation: Comprehensive Solutions

Sunday, April 9, 2017 : 10:40 AM
HUB 355 (University of California, Riverside)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jose A Betancourt and Maria C Cole, University of Texas


Current poverty alleviation legislation provides some economic relief to select families, but fails to address the psychosocial needs of the marginalized population. Children often suffer most severely when governmental policies fail, because they have not yet fortified the necessary survival skills to endure their severe disadvantage. Poverty conditions can cause depression and lead to externalizing behavior problems for children. As they develop and begin to form their social identities they often experience diminished self-concept and low self-efficacy skills. Their inability to meet basic needs often translates into two main outcomes: low educational attainment and increased criminal activity. These aversive outcomes also serve as predictors of poverty conditions. Children age into adults, reproduce under like conditions, and are unlikely to escape this cycle of generational poverty without intervention.


I conducted a comprehensive literature review which revealed that poverty is a leading factor in mortality, education, crime, and health-related quality of life outcomes. Several studies illuminated healthy eating and exercise initiatives, community engagement activities, and non-profit agendas that have enacted effective programs to help to mitigate poverty in America. These bodies of evidence presented evidence detailing factors that contribute to poverty conditions, and offered several evidence-based, effective programs to combat poverty and poverty-related conditions.

I utilized public policy analysis’ classificational model and social science perspective’s systems theory to analyze the complexity of federal poverty alleviation legislation. I constructed a cost-benefits ratio to examine the cost of current poverty alleviation legislation, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and compared it to its current outcomes. Finally, I compared the costs-benefits ratios of several validated poverty alleviation programs to the costs of the federal TANF program.


The TANF and SNAP programs accounted for about 10% of total government spending in 2015, or approximately $362 billion annually (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2016). There was no conclusive evidence, however, that TANF policies are effectively decreasing poverty. In contrast, implementation costs of the reviewed programs cost less than current TANF programs and yielded more positive results. For instance, one mentoring program, MST®, averted costs from juvenile arrests and housing in a juvenile detention facility (Henggeler & Schoenwald, 2011).


Many of the root causes of poverty are unattended through the provisions available through the current TANF policy. Poverty persists due to a lack of attention to the sociopolitical and cultural factors that contribute to the plight of those in poverty, such as low education, poor self-concept, and poor financial literacy skills. These factors help to enact and maintain a cyclic effect for individuals living in poverty. The indicators that predict poverty also render it nearly inescapable. Individuals who experience poverty may be unable to avoid their plight and continue to reproduce under like conditions, thereby, enabling inescapable poverty to persist. Evidence-based supplemental programs, like MST ®, are needed to help alleviate poverty.