Deflecting Asteroids: The AEI-Brookings Poverty Report

The American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution have come together to produce a report on reducing poverty. Recognizing the increase in child poverty with in the U.S., the group recommends multiple policies to combat it, including:

  • Promote marriage as the most reliable route to family stability and resources.
  • Promote delayed, responsible childbearing.
  • Promote parenting skills and practices, especially among low-income parents.
  • Promote skill development, family involvement, and employment among young men as well as women.
  • Expand opportunities for the disadvantaged by improving their skills.
  • Make work pay better than it does now for the less educated.
  • Expand both work requirements and opportunities for the hard-to-employ while maintaining an effective work-based safety net for the most vulnerable members of our society, especially children.
  • Make more jobs available.
  • Increase public investment in two underfunded stages of education: preschool and postsecondary.
  • Educate the whole child to promote social-emotional as well as academic skills.
  • Modernize the organization and accountability of the educational system.
  • Close resource gaps to reduce education gaps.

The project is based on three core values:

  1. That all Americans should have the opportunity to apply their talents and efforts to better themselves and their children, regardless of the circumstances of their birth;
  2. That all Americans have a responsibility to provide for themselves and their families to the best of their abilities before asking others for help;
  3. That all Americans are entitled to a basic level of security against the vicissitudes of life and, in a nation as rich as ours, to a baseline level of material well-being.

Perhaps even more interesting than the data and policies is the backstory of the project. It was ultimately the brainchild of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (who has been mentioned frequently here at Difficult Run) known as The Asteroids Club. He explains, “The metaphor was that American political life consists of each side pointing to real threats, real asteroids hurtling toward the Earth, but neither side is willing to turn its head for a moment to look at the other side’s perceived asteroid. If we could at least acknowledge that the other side’s concerns are valid, maybe we could help each other deflect our asteroids.” You can see him describe the origin and results of the project below.

This is what our political system needs and Haidt’s successful project provides me a little hope.