Why have two of the richest countries in the world, countries that have historically been beacons of hope for the rest of the world, embraced a constellation of institutions that yield so much poverty and such severe poverty? It’s not typically argued that a main problem is one of measurement. But in fact it’s striking that the U.S. and Canada have such a primitive infrastructure for monitoring poverty, an infrastructure in which (a) poverty is measured only infrequently; (b) the many different types of poverty are largely ignored (with a consequent default to one-size-fits-all policy), (c) the poverty thresholds are arbitrarily drawn and assumed to be meaningful, and (d) emphasis is placed on counting the number in poverty rather than understanding and monitoring the conditions of poverty.

The National Poverty Study will take on each of these problems and develop a modern infrastructure for monitoring poverty and developing evidence-informed policy in the United States. Now in collaboration with Canada's new National Poverty Centre, we have also developed preliminary plans to administer the study in Canada, with the proposed Canadian sites representing similar poverty types. These plans include:

  • 14 monitoring sites in the U.S. and 8 monitoring sites in Canada

  • Each site represents a distinct type of poverty (e.g., suburban poverty, deindustrializing poverty; rural poverty; skill-mismatch poverty; reservation poverty; border poverty)

  • Samples are stratified by the depth of poverty (e.g., deep poverty, near poverty)

  • Carefully-tested qualitative protocol administered comparably in each site

  • Top scholars of poverty and inequality leading each site

  • A carefully developed plan backed by leading institutions

The goals: To provide high-quality and timely evidence on how the poor are coping with poverty; to understand the sources of and reactions to poverty across the many different types of poverty; and to allow the U.S. and Canada to develop poverty policy on the basis of high-quality and comprehensive evidence. Read more here.