Combating Poverty


In many of our cities, at least a quarter of the population lives below the federal poverty line. Persistent poverty is one of the biggest threats to a city’s future, because of the impact on budgets and taxes; the increased demand for city services; the reduced economic activity; and most importantly the tremendous loss of human potential. Poverty affects those living in it most deeply, but it has an impact on everyone.

Low-income families face many challenges in climbing out of poverty to become financially stable. Lack of jobs; low wages; unstable employment; high costs of health care, housing, transportation, child care and other daily needs; and disconnection from mainstream financial services all contribute to financial instability.

Cities can help low-income families overcome many of these barriers. Many cities are taking a comprehensive approach to fighting poverty. Decreasing the number of people in poverty in your city will not only improve the lives of those directly affected, it will also improve the local economy and quality of life.

Technical Assistance for Members

Member cities can request up to three short policy memos per year on the topics that you need the most help with.  Learn more.

What Cities Can Do

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Economic Development & Job Creation

Check out our resources on Community & Economic Development here.

Support Services

Philadelphia, PA established the Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity (CEO) in 2013 to provide leadership that strengthens and coordinates the City’s anti-poverty efforts on behalf of its most vulnerable citizens and communities. CEO serves as the agency for the Shared Prosperity Philadelphia collective impact effort. Its goal is to organize and implement a coordinated approach to reduce poverty across all City departments.

Education, Housing and Wellness

Washington, DC has provided universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds since 2008. In 2017, approximately 9 out of 10 of the DC’s 4-year-olds and 7 out of 10 of 3-year-olds were enrolled in a publicly funded pre-K program. A study by the Center for American Progress found that universal preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds increased the number of mothers with young children participating in the workforce.

In 2014, the Department of Education in New York City, NY, expanded full-day universal pre-kindergarten, known as Pre-K for All (PKA), to include more than 68,000 children in the 2015-2016 school year. The program is funded through a mix of state grants (78%), city tax levy (21%) and federal grants (1%). An evaluation study of the first years of the program found that 92% of surveyed parents highly rate the quality and impact of their child’s pre-K program. In 2017, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the expansion of 3-K for All, to serve over 11,000 children in free, full-day, high-quality seats.

In San Antonio, TX, a prekindergarten program for four-year-old children (Pre-K 4-SA) was established following the recommendation of a blue-ribbon task-force. The program started in 2014 with 700 children, and grew to 3,700 in 2017. It is funded by a 1/8 cent sales tax and had a budget of $47.6 million in 2017.  A recent study found that the program led to significant improvement in cognitive, literacy, and math skills of participating children. 

Providence, RI created the ‘Providence Talks’ program – a free, voluntary program which coaches families and provides resources to assist in appropriate vocabulary growth for young children. Providence Talks is funded with a $5 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies and aims to close the ‘word gap’ between children of low-income households and their peers. The main aim of the program is to increase and measure conversational interactions at home, in order to reach the optimal 15,000 to 21,000 words a day to encourage healthy brain development.