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 Jenna Tomasello at

  • Addiction recovery

  • 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 »

  • Baby Bonds

  • 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 »

  • Childcare


  • 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 »

  • Disability

  • 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 »

  • Entrepreneurs

  • 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 »

  • Extreme weather

  • 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 »

  • Gender

  • Guaranteed Income

  • 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 »

  • Health disparities

  • 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 »

  • Journalism

  • Justice System

    The ways in which the legal system intersects with the issues of poverty and opportunity has become an increasing area of focus for poverty advocates and scholars.   Crime and exposure to... Read More »

  • LGBT

    Controlling for other factors, LGBT individuals are more likely to live in poverty than heterosexuals. The problem is especially acute for young adults and children, with research suggesting that up to 40%... Read More »

  • Medicaid

  • Medical debt

  • Mental health

  • Place-Based

    Recent research has consistently found that place matters significantly when it comes to addressing poverty. Scholars have mapped intergenerational mobility in zip codes across the country, finding large variations between cities and... Read More »

    • 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

    Spotlight is a nonpartisan website and does not endorse particular candidates or policies. That being said, understanding the political landscape and systems is essential in evaluating and addressing poverty in America. Further,... Read More »

  • Poverty Measurement

    Accurately measuring poverty is a crucial first step in addressing it. The official poverty rate is the most frequently cited measure of hardship in the country, although both conservatives and liberals see... Read More »

  • Public Benefits

    Public benefits kept 44 million out of poverty in 2017 according to data from the Census Bureau with Social Security responsible for keeping 27 million people above the line on its own.... Read More »

  • 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

    The tax code has enormous potential for helping alleviate poverty or potentially exacerbating existing inequalities. Both those on the right and left see a well-structured tax code as an important tool in... Read More »

  • Transportation

    Transportation is a crucial tool in determining access to opportunity. One study found commuting time to be the strongest predictor of upward mobility. Given the importance of place to outcomes,  adequate transportation... Read More »

  • 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 »