House Committee Examines the Geography of Poverty

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on “The Geography of Poverty” the week of February 12.  The hearing explored the increasing poverty in suburban communities, the high levels of poverty in rural areas, and the barriers and solutions to addressing poverty. 

Elizabeth Kneebone from the Brookings Institution spoke about the growing poverty in suburban areas that lack the systems and infrastructure needed to serve those with low incomes. “We need to help more people in more places,” she said. “We are fighting an uphill battle, but the federal government could be a better partner.” Ms. Kneebone recommended providing states and communities with more flexibility to experiment with cross-silo strategies. While more targeted federal investments are needed, she also described a lack of capacity to implement solutions in many communities. “We need organizations that can target and marshal resources,” she said.

William Leavy of the Greater West Town Project in Chicago, IL spoke about efforts to link intensive job training to local industries to help raise people out of poverty. Mr. Leavy cited major barriers in local job markets, including racial discrimination, the high number of ex-offenders returning to their communities, and the many students who do not complete high school. Mr. Leavy emphasized the connection between housing and economic mobility. “If someone doesn’t have secure housing, they won’t do well in a job,” he said.

Mark Partridge, a professor at Ohio State University, emphasized the high rate of poverty in rural communities, where poverty is often hidden and receives less attention. Tammy Slater, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska, added that poverty in rural communities is more difficult to address because there are fewer nonprofit organizations with the capacity to make a difference.

For more information, see a recent blog post from the House Ways and Means Committee at: