Spotlight’s issue areas focus on select topics that are critical to understanding the full scope of poverty in the United States and the steps lawmakers must take to ensure that low-income Americans have access to economic mobility. In this section, Spotlight seeks to draw attention to family well-being, health, rural poverty, education, economic opportunity and the needs of specific populations such as women and the elderly. Each topic area offers the latest news, research and opinions from policymakers, advocates and experts in the field. Spotlight also offers links to organization that track developments and make policy recommendations in these critical areas.

To submit research articles or to inquire about posting a commentary on a particular issue, please contact Marie Wilken at

  • Aging

    Every day, between 8,000 and 10,000 Americans turn 65. Longer lifespans, uncertain retirement income, elevated health care costs and a weak safety net increase economic pressure in the later years of Americans’... Read More »

  • Asset Building

    Poverty is calculated by income, but many studies have found that a greater share of Americans are in asset poverty. Almost half of Americans lack the savings to handle an unexpected financial... Read More »

  • Child and Youth Well-Being

    Poverty disproportionately affects children. About one in five American children – nearly 15 million – live in poverty, and nearly twice as many experience poverty at some point during their childhood. Historically,... Read More »

  • Digital Divide

    The digital divide – the gap in access to and use of technology and the internet – is both a cause and effect of poverty. The rich and educated are more likely... Read More »

  • Economic Opportunity

    At the center of the American ethos – the “American Dream” – is the ideal that all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed and prosper. In the Economic Opportunity Act of... Read More »

  • Education

    Education is considered an equalizer and a route out of poverty – but barriers within the system can maintain and exacerbate inequalities. Divergence begins as early as preschool, with many families unable... Read More »

  • Environment

    The consequences of pollution, climate change and environmental disasters are not distributed equally. Research has found that they hit vulnerable communities – those who are already disadvantaged by income, wealth and/or race... Read More »

  • Families

    The past century saw dramatic changes in family structure that have immense economic effects. As women have increasingly entered the workforce, they have become more financially independent, making marriage less of an... Read More »

  • Food

    Americans waste more than $160 billion in food per year, yet food insecurity is a daily problem for almost one in eight Americans. The number of Americans who struggle with hunger –... Read More »

  • Health

    Health care and insurance costs frequently top the national policy agenda. The cost of health care remains insurmountably high for many people, but the link between poverty and health goes far beyond... Read More »

  • Housing

    Shelter is a basic necessity, but housing costs are burdensome for many; experts have declared an American housing crisis. The supply of affordable housing is scarce, and housing is becoming less affordable... Read More »

  • Immigration

    Many of America’s immigrants are drawn by economic opportunity and the prospect of a better life. Immigrants have long held an important and contentious role in the American economy. The politics of... Read More »

  • Jobs

    Jobs are the foundation of current antipoverty programs – but what pushes working people into poverty? While children and the elderly experience particularly high rates of poverty, the majority of those in... Read More »

  • Justice System

  • LGBT

  • Place-Based

    • Cities
    • Rural Areas

      The gap between rural and urban poverty has diminished significantly since the mid-20th century, but rural poverty remains persistent. Today... Read More »

  • Politics

  • Poverty Measurement

  • Public Benefits

  • Racial Equity

    The factors most often connected to poverty – education, housing, health care, employment, wages and wealth – all show significant racial disparities. Centuries of entrenched discrimination and inequality have led to a... Read More »

  • Tax and Budget

  • Transportation

  • Women

    Women’s entry into the workforce has been one of the most significant economic trends of the century. As women gain financial independence and fulfill their economic potential, GDP rises and poverty goes... Read More »