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Combating Poverty

In 2014, almost 50 million people in the US were living in poverty. In many of our cities, a 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.

Poverty Rates Remain Stubbornly High in Big Cities, J.B. Wogan, Governing, September 24th, 2013. Read more.

Child Poverty in the U.S.: What New Census Data Tell Us about Our Youngest Children, Center for Law and Social Policy, September 18th, 2013. Read more.

The Unrelenting Challenge of Young Black Male Unemployment, Linda Harris, Center for Law and Social Policy, August 27th, 2013. Read more.

America’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model, Sarah Treuhaft, Angela Glover Blackwell, and Manuel Pastor, Program for Environmental and Regional Equality, November 1st, 2011. Read more.

Long-Run Economic Effects of Early Childhood Programs on Adult Earnings, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Katherine Magnuson, and Jane Waldfogel, Partnership for America's Economic Success, February 20th, 2009. Read more.

Elements of Best Practice in Poverty Reduction Programs, Portland Economic Opportunity Initiative, July 1st, 2007. Read more.

Workers Centers: Organizing Communities at the Edge of the Dream, Janice Fine, Economic Policy Institute, February 1st, 2006. Read more.

Maximizing the Earned Income Tax Credit in Your Community: A Toolkit for Municipal Leaders, National League of Cities, December 31st, 1969. Read more.

Helping Working Families, National League of Cities. Read more.

Helping Families Achieve Financial Stability, National League of Cities. Read more.

Cities have adopted a range of initiatives to address the complex root causes of poverty. Below are a few programs and policies that you could consider implementing in your city.


Economic Development & Job Creation

Chicago, IL

LISC/MetroEdge uncovers $2 billion in retail potential in NCP communities, Ed Finkel, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, June 22nd, 2006. Read more.


Durham, NC

Promoting Entrepreneurship in Durham: Unlikely Partnerships, William V. Bell, January 16th, 2013. Read more

Durham Names as Top 20 Finalist in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, City of Durham, November 5th, 2012. Read more


Los Angeles, CA

Living Wage Victory in LA, Peter Dreier, The Nation, February 5th, 2007. Read more.


Madison, WI

City-County Jobs Collaboration Underway, Mayor's Office, City of Madison, WI, November 6th, 2013. Read more


Memphis, TN

Collectively, Memphis Leaders Fast-Forward Social Progress, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, December 11th, 2013. Read more


New York, NY

New York City to Test New Tax Credit for Working Poor, J.B. Wogan, Governing, November 15th, 2013. Read more

Widespread Abuse of Day Laborers Shows Gap in Legal Aid, Cara Anna, Associated Press, February 11th, 2006. Read more.


Philadelphia, PA

Phila’s Multipronged Fight against Poverty, Michael A. Nutter and Eva Gladstein, Philly.com, July 15th, 2013. Read more

Shared Prosperity: Our Plan to Fight Poverty, City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, 2013. Read more


Robust Support Services

Philadelphia, PA

Making the Safety Net More Visible in Philadelphia, Jon Hurdle, The New York Times, August 30th, 2013. Read more

Cities Launch Anti-Poverty Centers, J.B. Wogan, Governing, July 30th, 2013.Read more


Savannah, GA

Step Up Savannah 2013 Annual Report, Step Up Savannah, September 1st, 2013. Read more


Education, Housing and Wellness

Chicago, IL

Policy Forum - Racial Segregation in Metropolitan Chicago Housing, Tyrone Forman and Maria Krysan, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, February 1st, 2008. Read more



Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, The Reinvestment FundRead more


Providence, RI

Can We Disrupt Poverty by Changing How Poor Parents Talk to their Kids?, Emily Badger, The Atlantic Cities, December 17th, 2013. Read more


Washington, DC

In D.C., public school for 3-year-olds is already the norm, Susan Svrluga, The Washington Post, February 20th, 2013. Read more


Ceri Jenkins

At our Winter 2014 meeting, we discussed how cities can take a comprehensive approach to fighting poverty. Learn more or watch the meeting videos here.