Friday, June 15, 2018
Business

Ryan's right on chronic poverty

The statement

"Today, if you were raised poor, you're just as likely to stay poor as you were 50 years ago."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Jan. 9 in a column posted on Medium.com

The ruling

The newly installed House speaker recently took to Medium to set the stage for a forum in Columbia, S.C., on Republican efforts to fight poverty. The forum, hosted by the Jack Kemp Foundation, drew six 2016 Republican presidential candidates: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired physician Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

In his column, Ryan wrote that a new direction was needed on government antipoverty efforts.

"We've been fighting the War on Poverty for 50 years now," he wrote. "And I don't think you can call it anything but a stalemate. The federal government has spent trillions of dollars. And yet today, if you were raised poor, you're just as likely to stay poor as you were 50 years ago. I'm not saying we haven't made progress. We have. But today we have a safety net that catches people falling into poverty. What we need is a safety net that lifts people out of poverty  — that helps them earn a good paycheck so they can support themselves."

Here, we'll check Ryan's statement that "today, if you were raised poor, you're just as likely to stay poor as you were 50 years ago."

When we asked Ryan's staff for their evidence, they pointed us to an academic paper by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez and Nicholas Turner, "Is the United States Still a Land of Opportunity? Recent Trends in Intergenerational Mobility" from January 2014. Chetty and Hendren are at Harvard, Kline and Saez are at the University of California-Berkeley, and Turner was with the U.S. Treasury Department.

The paper, based on extensive analysis of income and educational-attainment data, found that "intergenerational mobility" has "remained extremely stable" since the generation of Americans born in 1971.

"We find that children entering the labor market today have the same chances of moving up in the income distribution (relative to their parents) as children born in the 1970s," the authors wrote.

When we asked one of the co-authors, Saez, whether Ryan's summary left out anything important, he said no.

"Yes, this is broadly correct," Saez told PolitiFact. Saez said the paper shows the odds of staying in the bottom one-fifth of the income distribution when your parents were in the bottom one-fifth have stayed stable for the past four to five decades.

The paper and Saez in the interview both noted one caveat — that the consequences of the pattern Ryan is citing have worse effects today because inequality has grown over the same period.

"Because inequality has risen," the paper notes, "the consequences of the 'birth lottery' — the parents to whom a child is born — are larger today than in the past."

However, this caveat doesn't undermine Ryan's point. If anything, it accentuates it. (We're also not penalizing Ryan for rounding up the study's length to 50 years.)

Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist and chief economist at the jobs site Indeed, said the paper Ryan chose is a credible one within the profession. "These are the authors I would turn to" when looking at intergenerational mobility.

We rate this claim True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Published: 06/15/18
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Filling in a hole that was left by The Iron Yard’s exodus last year, a new computer coding school will open its doors to its first class in downtown St. Petersburg on July 23.The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate thro...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates, has bought Aventine at Boyton Beach, a 216-unit apartment community, for $43 million.Aventine, garden-style apartments that are 95 percent occupied, will be renovated and renamed "Verona at Boynton Beach."It i...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

The national battle between Big Beer and local craft breweries is playing out on the shelves of your neighborhood Publix — and some favorite Florida brewmakers are losing.The guild that represents Florida brewers says at least 12 small breweries have...
Published: 06/15/18
Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Memorial Day weekend was supposed to bring three productive days of home improvement for Will Mega, a dean at a North Philadelphia charter school.He’d go to two Lowe’s locations near his home in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood for a grill and ...
Published: 06/15/18
McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

NEW YORK — McDonald’s said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.The burger chain and other fast-food comp...
Published: 06/15/18
Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

ST. PETERSBURG --- Among topics that stir passionate interest, two that rank high are medical marijuana and craft beers.A group of Tampa Bay entrepreneurs has ambitious plans to profit from both.They are leasing a vast warehouse space in St. Petersbu...
Published: 06/15/18