What Rep. Paul Ryan Gets Wrong About the War on Poverty
— By Sarah Ayres
Republicans in the House of Representatives released a report in February that relies on a misleading and incomplete review of social-science literature to paint the nation’s anti-poverty programs as largely ineffectual and counterproductive. Unfortunately, the review is so riddled with inaccuracies that many of the leading academics cited in it have publicly accused Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, of misrepresenting their work. In reality, there is little evidence to support the report’s conclusion that federal programs exacerbate poverty by creating disincentives for people to work.
Rep. Ryan’s report relies on a combination of overstating the evidence, ignoring relevant studies, and simply misrepresenting the research to make the argument that the safety net creates a “poverty trap.” This issue brief reviews economic research on the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs; a significant body of research demonstrates that not only have anti-poverty programs successfully raised millions of families out of poverty, but they also increase the economic mobility of recipients and support broader economic growth.