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Why is it so difficult for some people to escape poverty? Cynthia Esposito Lamy answers that question in American Children in Chronic Poverty: Complex Risks, Benefit-Cost Analyses, and Untangling the Knot by describing the complex and interacting “knot” of problems that children face as they grow up in poverty. Through a vast store of research on topics related to children, families and poverty, and methods to estimate “social return on investment,” Lamy determines which programs and policies produce benefits that exceed costs, providing evidence for an efficient fight against poverty.
Specific expert policy recommendations for keeping poverty from ruining children’s potential are described within three broad themes: bringing equity to our educational system, supporting families as they transition through difficulties, and making work pay. Lamy concludes with foundational concepts for building an overarching model of poverty-fighting to bring separate, narrowly defined programs and policies together. Benefit-cost analysis confirms what the great religions have been trying to tell us for millennia: when we respect and care for the most vulnerable members of our society we create a strong, successful society in which everyone prospers.