Don’t Give Up: Poverty Programs That Work

The Washington Monthly, June, 1988.


What you have generously offered me is a  chance to say that while I think most of the programs failed, I’m not a fanatic, and to prove it, here are some successes. And I can’t do it, because I cannot think of a single large program, state or federal, that I consider to be a meaningful success. I can think of some statistical successes, as in “the results of the regression analysis indicate a difference in annual earnings between the experimental and control group significant beyond the .01 level.” But what I have in mind when I think of success (and you, too, I bet) goes something like this: “Ten years ago, we had a big jobs program. Last year we tracked down a couple of hundred kids who were in the program to see how they were doing, and it was really heartening. A lot of the kids have regular jobs, they’re raising families, they’re doing pretty well-not all of them, but a lot. Not nearly as many of the kids we couldn’t take into the program are doing as well .”