New Thinking About Poverty

New Thinking About Poverty

POOR SUPPORT: POVERTY IN THE AMERICAN FAM- ILY, by David T. Ellwood. New York: Basic Books, 1988. 271 pp. $19.95.

When Charles Murray’s attack on the welfare system, Losing Ground, was published in 1984, it drew a great deal of attention. With the conservative Manhattan Institute bankrolling an artful public relations campaign, Murray and his ideas were soon being widely discussed on television, in newspapers and magazines, and in policy circles. The fact that there was little or no empirical evidence to support much of Murray’s argument (and a substantial body of evidence to refute it), and that much of the data Murray cited in support of his case was badly misread or misused, did not seem to matter.

David Ellwood’s Poor Support: Poverty in the American Family has not attracted the attention that Losing Ground did. No policy institute or think tank has put up large sums to promote the book. Nor does its message fit neatly into a twenty-second sound bite, unlike Murray’s argument that social welfare programs have done more harm than good and ought to be abolished.

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