It may surprise you to learn that data from the U.S. Census data show that just 2.4 percent of those who work full-time year-round live in poverty. In contrast, 14 percent of those who did work—but not full-time, and not year-round—were in poverty, and fully 32 percent of those who did not work at all lived in poverty.
Surprisingly, these numbers are nothing new. Economist Lawrence Mead noted in his book From Prophesy to Charity: How to Help the Poor that the poverty rate in 2009 for those who worked at least a 35-hour work week for 50 weeks of the year was just 3 percent. Mead summarizes: “The lion’s share of adult poverty is due, at least in the first instance, to low working levels.”
Clearly, the key to escaping poverty isn’t merely raising wages, as important as that might be. It’s full-time (or close to full-time) work. And one of the key ways to help our neighbors escape poverty is straightforward and simple: help them get job training, land a stable job, and advance into higher paying positions over time.
To this end, we are proud of the impressive results flowing out of our workforce initiative, Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG). By breaking down the key barriers to full-time employment—lack of education and job skills—HWDG connects local employers and community leaders with job seekers to provide valuable training that leads to stable, good paying jobs that lift people out of poverty and break the cycle of generational poverty and government dependency.
We believe that the best solutions to problems are at the local level. And we believe that the reason HWDG is the most effective job placement program in Georgia is because it moves beyond political grandstanding and offers a real solution to the core problem—the need for sustainable jobs.
In our booming economy, there’s little reason for those who want to work to remain mired in poverty. Job initiatives like HWDG give motivated individuals a second chance and much-needed on-the-job training to get a solid job that leads to a life of dignity and thriving.
This week marks National School Choice Week, a program that began in 2011 and has rapidly grown across the country highlighting the benefits and need for more school choice options. Lt. Gov. Duncan is leading the state’s celebration at Atlanta Youth Acadamy in Southeast Atlanta by talking with students and parents yesterday about the importance of education, and how remaining focused on expanding school choice opportunities to students statewide is one of his top priorities.
“One of the most important things I can do every day as Lt. Gov. is remember one of the best gifts we can give a child in this state is a quality k-12 education,” stated Lt. Gov. Duncan as he spoke with a classroom of fifth graders and parents. “I want parents to know that and want them to see when we make laws, or adjust things in the laws, and create new policies we realize it is centered around the kids.”
The school is located near the federal prison, and the students’ median household income is about $23,000 a year. Fighting to overcome the neighborhood statistics, 62 percent of the students participate in Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program, and 100 percent of the students have graduated and gone on to postsecondary education.
The tax credit scholarship program has been wildly successful reaching the program’s cap within a matter of days for consecutive years. Lawmakers expanded the program last year by doubling the cap to $100 million starting in 2019.
A quality education is key. It provides a primary path for breaking cycles of poverty. GCO has played a crucial role in bringing real educational choice to upwards of 250,000 students and counting through Tax-Credit Scholarships, Special Needs Scholarships, and charter schools. As we move forward in the legislative session, we will continue to fight to expand Georgia’s current programs and to create education opportunity by pushing for the adoption of Education Scholarship Accounts.
Our work isn’t done until all of Georgia’s children can access the educational options that allow them to achieve the American Dream.