Few problems are as national in character as the persistence of widespread poverty in the United States. And few problems so consistently provoke parochial and isolationist responses from states and localities. The economic downturn of the late 1980s and early 1990s provides a case in point. In 1992, the number of Americans living below the official poverty line climbed to its highest point since 1964, the year that the nation declared its "war on poverty." Wrenching dislocations in the occupational structure and the consequent contraction of reasonable employment opportunities have compelled record numbers of individuals and families to turn to government for the basic necessities of life. In the face of this national tragedy, an increasing number of states are openly attempting to exclude poor people from their borders by adopting "protectionist" social-welfare policies.

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