Email, Isabel Sawhill, senior fellow, the Brookings Institution, Sept. 12, 2013

8:03 pm

Basically, the sentence fits the spirit of what we argued but is inaccurate in a number of respects.  The three things were graduating from HS, working full-time for a year (not in your first job but during the year the census data were collected), and being at least 21 and married before you had children.  The caveat about 2007 being a low unemployment year is an important one.  The poverty rate has risen from 12.5 to 15 percent as a result of the recession.  Put differently, it's a lot harder to find full time work now so it's a lot harder to stay out of poverty.  The issue of cause and effect is also of concern, although as you note, we believe most (but not all) of the effects are causal, meaning that if the poor had more education, worked more, and married more, poverty would drop a lot although our specific estimate might be on the optimistic side.   By the way, these 3 things are not "a guarantee" that you wont be poor. We estimated it would drop to 2 percent in 2007.