Should more be done by the government to fight poverty?

With increasing inflation and growing unemployment, poverty is on the rise. Some say the government should be doing more to combat it, while others believe people should take responsibility for their own economic situation.

Rise of the Issue

The amount of people living in poverty has increased significantly in the aftermath of the pandemic and as a result of recent sky-high inflation. Between December 2021 and February 2022 alone, the number of people below the poverty line increased by 6 million. Some say the government should be doing more to combat increasing poverty, while others believe there is sufficient opportunity across the United States for people to lift themselves out of an economically difficult situation. 

The debate around the government’s involvement in fighting poverty sees opposing sides having diverging views on the causes of poverty, i.e. whether it is a micro or macro problem, the efficacy of helping people out of poverty, and the degree to which it disproportionately affects minority groups.

Issue Timeline


President Roosevelt implements New Deal

In an effort to restore the economy after the Great Depression, president Roosevelt implemented a series of programs aimed at reducing the number of people living in poverty.


President Johnson introduces War on Poverty

First introduced during his State of the Union Address in 1964, president Johnson went on to champion legislation aimed at eliminating poverty, expanding educational opportunities, increasing the net gain for poor and unemployed people and tending to the health and financial needs of the elderly.


Great Recession Leads to Increase in Poverty

This period of economic downturn increased the number of people living in poverty across the United States.


Covid Pandemic Causes More Poverty

Tens of millions of people lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic and businesses were heavily impacted, causing economic hardship for many across the nation.


Highest Inflation Since the 1980s

The fallout of the covid pandemic as well as the conflict in Ukraine have caused a 9.1 percent inflation between June of 2021 and 2022 - the highest since 1981.

Micro Issues



The two sides differ on whether government action to reduce poverty increases or decreases incentives for people to provide for themselves.


Root Causes

Supporters say the root causes of poverty often lie in factors outside of someone’s control, while opponents refute people cannot pull themselves out of poverty.



Supporters point out that people of color are disproportionately affected by a cycle of poverty that spans across generations, while opponents say everyone has equal opportunities at financial success in modern day America.

Pro Arguments


People will have better access to safe housing.

Those who live in poverty endure a lack of access to housing that is safe, hygienic and well-maintained or, in some cases, even any housing at all.


More Americans will be able to enjoy quality education.

Poverty is a driving factor behind lack of education - for example when people leave school to generate income.


Poverty reduction improves public health.

Access to medical care and proper nutrition - which people living in poverty often lack - vastly improves people’s health.


Poverty is bad for the overall economy.

Child poverty alone is estimated to cost the United States economy more than $500 billion a year due to decreased productivity, higher health care costs and higher criminal justice expenditures.


Poverty reduction decreases racial inequality.

People of color are disproportionately affected by poverty - which accumulates over generations. Poverty reduction efforts would help erase some of that inequality.

Con Arguments


Poverty reduction efforts remove incentives to work.

If the government helps people who live in poverty, they have less reason to earn their own money and secure their own livelihoods.


Poverty reduction costs money.

Whether through cash assistance or other benefits, efforts by the government to reduce poverty will be financed by taxpayer dollars.


It only targets people who do not have money.

People who have worked hard to become financially stable will not benefit from poverty reduction efforts.


Previous poverty reduction efforts have not yielded the intended result.

Although poverty declined by 30 percent within five years of President Johnson announcing the War on Poverty, there has been little sustainable progress since the late 1960s.


Some people may exploit the system.

While poverty is a real problem that many people face, more poverty reduction efforts by the government could encourage more people to defraud the system.