The theory describes a person’s advancement from poverty to economic self-sufficiency as a journey across a bridge supported by five critical pillars—family stability, well-being, education and training, financial management, and employment and career management. To successfully cross this bridge and reach economic self-sufficiency, the traveler must attain explicitly defined objectives in each of these five areas.

Family Stability

  • She is spending less than 30% of her after-tax income on housing.
  • Her children’s needs are being met and do not prevent her from pursuing schooling or work.


  • She is fully engaged in her work and her family, and no health or behavioral issues prevent her from pursuing schooling or employment.
  • She is part of a strong social network, serving as an advocate, organizer, and support to others.

Education and Training

  • She has achieved a level of post-secondary education and/or training that has prepared her for a job paying enough to support her family.

Financial Management

  • She has savings equal to three months’ worth of living expenses.
  • She has good credit and is managing her debts in balance with her income.

Employment and Career Management

  • Her earnings from her job are greater than the real costs of basic living expenses for her family.