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Friday, June 6, 2014

GDP and Poverty: Is Economic Growth the Answer?

From 1959 to 1973, the American economy grew 82 percent, per person. It is easy to assume this is why the poverty rate decreased from 22% to 11 percent.[1] From roughly 1985 to 1990 and then again from 1995 to 2000, heady growth rates are also correlated positively with declining poverty rates. But correlation is not causation. Indeed, had the correlation in the 1959-1973 period continued, the subsequent per capita growth would have ended poverty in 1986. What then are we to make of the relationship between GDP and poverty?

[1] Neil Irwin, “Growth Has Been Good for Decades. So Why Hasn’t Poverty Declined?The New York Times, June 4, 2014.