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

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


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

Education and Training

  • The participant 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

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

Employment and Career Management

  • The participant’s earnings from his or her job are greater than the real costs of basic living expenses for her family.