Poverty and the Social Welfare State in the United States and Other Nations

Among affluent nations, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the United States has one of the highest levels of social welfare spending per capita. Using a uniform measure to compare poverty levels in the United States and Europe shows that the poverty rate is lower in the U.S. than in the United Kingdom and roughly the same as the rates in most other West European countries. The official U.S. poverty measure tells very little about the actual living conditions of the poor because the vast majority of means-tested welfare spending is not included. Government data show that the living standards of the poor are very different from common notions of poverty. In working to reduce poverty, the goal should not be to outspend other nations in government programs, but rather to promote self-sufficiency and true well-being.

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