In a rich, advanced economy like the United States, poverty should be viewed as an aberration. To the extent that poverty exists—and this briefing paper defines poverty more broadly than the official method—it is largely a failure either of the market or of social policy. That is, the market may fail to produce enough jobs or income for those willing and able to work. Policies designed to support work may fail to adequately subsidize the earnings of those whose low wages, low productivity, or both, leave them with earnings too low to meet their needs. The safety net may also fail to catch those who are unable to work, due to their own personal limitations or disabilities. Those who are fully able yet unwilling to work may well be self-selected into poverty, but most of the low-income population does not fit into that category.
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