September 13, 2022

Media Contact
Michelle Blundell

A combination of providing direct cash assistance and individualized, respectful economic mobility coaching to families is an effective approach to helping families move out of poverty.

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2021 poverty data, which offers insight into the state of income, earnings, income inequality, and poverty in the U.S. In response to the data, Kim Janey, former Mayor of Boston and president & CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) – a national nonprofit dedicated to dramatically improving the lives of people living in poverty – issued the following statement:

Today’s report affirms what we’ve long known: we need deeper investments in social safety-net programs that we’ve seen pay dividends for families. From 2020 to 2021, the supplemental child poverty rate decreased by a dramatic 46%, from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021 – the lowest rate on record.

“It’s clear from this data that the expanded Child Tax Credit – which went into effect in March 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan – made a huge difference for families. Yet these increased monthly payments ended in December. Time and again, our systems fail to provide sufficient support to ensure families can thrive.

“We also know that these data do not tell us everything about the state of poverty. The poverty line is alarmingly outdated. It fails to capture what it takes for families to meet basic needs including rent, food, and health care. Even people living above the poverty line are struggling, especially as we face staggering levels of inflation. The measure simply doesn’t reflect the reality of what it costs to live in the United States today.

“We can’t forget that systemic problems – from the lack of affordable housing and accessible, quality childcare, to an insufficient minimum wage and the gender and racial pay gap – continue to trap people in poverty. Poverty is a policy decision; at its root it is institutionalized racism. Not only have our government’s policies been designed to actively discourage families, particularly families of color, from moving ahead, but our social safety net also falls severely short in giving people with low incomes the tools and support to move up the economic ladder.

“As we continue to confront our country’s systems, we know people need support now. This requires a true reimagining of what support looks like. Research shows that implementing policies that provide long-term direct cash assistance with no strings attached to families – like the 2021 expanded Child Tax Credit – is the most effective, immediate way to help move people out of poverty. Programs like these also have the potential to reduce the racial wealth gap and increase equity. In fact, a newly released analysis from Child Trends found that investments in the social safety-net during 1993–2019 significantly contributed to a decline in child poverty. However, cash assistance alone is often not enough. We must also look at long-term solutions to help families not only meet their basic needs, but achieve their biggest goals.

“As we’ve seen in our work at EMPath, individualized, respectful support is another critical piece of the puzzle that can help families thrive. Our coaching approach, called Mobility Mentoring®, acknowledges that people are the experts of their own lives, and provides them with the kind of support we all need in order to move forward: coaching around long-term goals, strategizing around short-term roadblocks, and a framework for parsing out what to focus on next. We partner with families so that over time, they can reach and maintain economic independence. This model has been replicated across the country by the more than 150 members of our learning network across the country who have supported hundreds of thousands of people to climb the economic ladder.

“Again, we know poverty is a policy choice – our government makes decisions that impact who and how many people live in poverty. We also know what works to help families move forward. It’s time to implement what we’ve seen to be effective: more direct cash assistance combined with individualized coaching focused on economic mobility. Families deserve nothing less.”

Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) is a nearly 200-year-old national nonprofit that offers a unique combination of direct services, including supporting families with our life-changing coaching model, Mobility Mentoring, to help people reach and maintain economic independence; a learning network of 150+ human services organizations nationwide that adapt our model; and research and advocacy for what we’ve seen be effective.