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Making the Case for Self-Directed Capacity Building

Living Empowered is an assets-based approach that recognizes individuals living in poverty already demonstrate high levels of self-sufficiency. Living Empowered focuses system efforts on sustainable pathways plugged into long-term supports that keep a person's "battery charged" through each step toward financial security.

Current social policy that affects welfare recipients focuses on the concept of "self-sufficiency" where leaving welfare for work is the goal. While this approach has reduced welfare rolls, it has not necessarily helped low-income people improve their economic, educational, or social outlook. Self-sufficiency has become so ingrained in American society that the media, policy makers, researchers, and the general public no longer question the legitimacy of this goal.”
~Robert Leibson Hawkins, Author of Self-Sufficiency to Personal and Family Sustainability

Graph explaining the three methods on how to get out of poverty (zipline,escalator, and treadmill). The x axis of the graph is dollars per hour and the y axis is annual salary. Modeling Three Pathways Out of Poverty

The three pathways out of poverty below are based on a single parent with two children (with childcare costs) living in Monroe County, NY and illustrate the process of sustaining education, training, and job promotions over a number of years while relying on phased-out public assistance.

1. The Zipline brings families up to a living wage quickly and keeps them there until earned income reaches a living wage.

2. The Escalator provides individuals the opportunity to keep each additional dollar
of earned income (or a fixed percentage) until they reach a living wage.

3. The Treadmill gives an individual a small bump out of poverty and then offsets any increase in earned income with a reduction in public assistance benefits.

A recent study found that thirty-six percent of individuals return to poverty within four years of ending a spell and exit probabilities fall as the duration of the poverty spell increases.

~Ann Huff Stevens, UC Davis Center for Poverty Research

Last Updated 10/27/20

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