Poverty Alleviation Legislation: Comprehensive Solutions

Maria Cole, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Current poverty alleviation legislation provides some economic relief to select families, but fails to address the psychosocial needs of the marginalized population. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) policy is the primary non-medical poverty alleviation program in the United States. This program has remained largely unchanged since its adoption in 1996 despite persistent poverty nationwide. ^ We conducted a comprehensive literature review which demonstrated that poverty is a leading factor in mortality, education, crime, and health-related quality-of-life outcomes. Several studies illuminated community engagement activities, agendas, and initiatives that have helped to mitigate poverty and the psychosocial conditions that perpetuate poverty cycles. Current research described individual and systemic factors that contribute to poverty conditions, and offered evidence-based, effective programs to combat poverty. In this study, we identified and reviewed three programs; two non-profits and one local governmental program. ^ We also utilized classificational policy analysis tools to provide insight into the complexities of poverty and potential policy solutions. The issue of poverty was divided into component parts, classified, and reviewed for relevance, exhaustiveness, consistency and hierarchical distinctiveness. Poverty was divided into two conceptualized groups as either economic depravity or the mental/psychosocial state of being unable to extract oneself from impoverished conditions. The two concepts were reviewed in the literature and found to be closely related. Poverty was further examined through the lens of policy solutions and we reviewed previously conducted interventions. Increased financial gains did not eliminate poverty, therefore the authors surmised that the psychosocial conditions that are associated with poverty required the most focus in this project. ^ Each year, TANF caseloads continue to decrease despite persistent poverty. States spent approximately $13 billion of the $16 billion available dollars from the TANF block grant in 2013. Using less of the available money means that the states are required to spend less of their own money to fulfill federal regulations. Only about 50 percent of monies utilized by the states went directly to work training and support activities. The remaining funding went towards pregnancy prevention programs or other, undisclosed programs. Poverty rates nationwide, however, have remained largely unchanged. ^ The reviewed programs demonstrated effectiveness in decreasing some of the confounders of poverty. The cost-benefits analysis of these programs revealed substantial return-on-investment. Overall, program participants demonstrated significant successes following program completion. ^ TANF is not functioning as an effective safety net. The reviewed programs have been successful in improving the lives of individuals living in poverty. The parenting skills, behavioral intervention, and financial education components of these programs combined with current TANF cash assistance and job training programs should guide the revision of this policy to create one comprehensive program. This change could help to develop a comprehensive response to reduce overall poverty and break the cycle of generational poverty.^

Subject Area

Public health|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Cole, Maria, "Poverty Alleviation Legislation: Comprehensive Solutions" (2017). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10276576.