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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain the poverty trap, noting how it is impacted by government programs
  • Identify potential issues in government programs that seek to reduce poverty
  • Calculate a budget constraint line that represents the poverty trap

Can you give people too much help, or the wrong kind of help? When people are provided with food, shelter, healthcare, income, and other necessities, assistance may reduce their incentive to work. Consider a program to fight poverty that works in this reasonable-sounding manner: the government provides assistance to the poor, but as the poor earn income to support themselves, the government reduces the level of assistance it provides. With such a program, every time a poor person earns $100, the person loses $100 in government support. As a result, the person experiences no net gain for working. Economists call this problem the poverty trap    .

Consider the situation faced by a single-parent family. A single mother (earning $8 an hour) with two children, as illustrated in [link] . First, consider the labor-leisure budget constraint faced by this family in a situation without government assistance. On the horizontal axis is hours of leisure (or time spent with family responsibilities) increasing in quantity from right to left. Also on the horizontal axis is the number of hours at paid work, going from zero hours on the right to the maximum of 2,500 hours on the left. On the vertical axis is the amount of income per year rising from low to higher amounts of income. The budget constraint line shows that at zero hours of leisure and 2,500 hours of work, the maximum amount of income is $20,000 ($8 × 2,500 hours). At the other extreme of the budget constraint line, an individual would work zero hours, earn zero income, but enjoy 2,500 hours of leisure. At point A on the budget constraint line    , by working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, the utility-maximizing choice is to work a total of 2,000 hours per year and earn $16,000.

Now suppose that a government antipoverty program guarantees every family with a single mother and two children $18,000 in income. This is represented on the graph by a horizontal line at $18,000. With this program, each time the mother earns $1,000, the government will deduct $1,000 of its support. [link] shows what will happen at each combination of work and government support.

The poverty trap in action

The graph shows a downward sloping line that begins at $20,000 on the y-axis and ends at 2,500 on the x-axis. A horizontal line extends from $18,000 on the y-axis. A dashed plum line extends from $16,000 on the y-axis and intersects with the vertical line extending from 500 on the x-axis at point A. Beneath the x-axis is an arrow pointing to the right indicating leisure (hours) and an arrow pointing to the left indicating labor (hours).
The original choice is 500 hours of leisure, 2,000 hours of work at point A, and income of $16,000. With a guaranteed income of $18,000, this family would receive $18,000 whether it provides zero hours of work or 2,000 hours of work. Only if the family provides, say, 2,300 hours of work does its income rise above the guaranteed level of $18,000—and even then, the marginal gain to income from working many hours is small.
Total income at various combinations of work and support
Amount Worked (hours) Total Earnings Government Support Total Income
0 0 $18,000 $18,000
500 $4,000 $14,000 $18,000
1,000 $8,000 $10,000 $18,000
1,500 $12,000 $6,000 $18,000
2,000 $16,000 $2,000 $18,000
2,500 $20,000 0 $20,000

Questions & Answers

what is economic
Stephen Reply
economics is the study of ways in which people use resources to satisfy their wants
Falak
what is Price mechanism
Dhany Reply
introduction to economics
Uday Reply
welfare definition of economics
Uday
examine the wealth and welfare definitions of economics
Uday
read book by ml jhingan
Anand
What do we mean by Asian tigers
Aeesha Reply
Dm me I will tell u
Shailendra
Hi
Aeesha
hi
Pixel
What is Average revenue
KEMZO
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KEMZO
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metasebia
uday
Uday
it is a group of 4 countries named Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong because their economies are growing very faster
Anand
what's a demand
Edward Reply
it is the quantity of commodities that consumers are willing and able to purchase at particular prices and at a given time
Munanag
quantity of commodities dgat consumers are willing to pat at particular price
Omed
demand depends upon 2 things 1wish to buy 2 have purchasing power of that deserving commodity except any from both can't be said demand.
Bashir
Demand is a various quantity of a commodities that a consumer is willing and able to buy at a particular price within a given period of time. All other things been equal.
Vedzi
State the law of demand
Vedzi
The desire to get something is called demand.
Mahabuba
what is the use of something should pay for its opportunity foregone to indicate?
Random Reply
Why in monopoly does the firm maximize profits when its marginal revenue equals marginal cost
astrid Reply
different between economic n history
Falma Reply
If it is known that the base change of RM45 million, the statutory proposal ratio of 7 per cent, and the public cash holding ratio of 5 per cent, what is the proposed ratio of bank surplus to generate a total deposit of RM 300 million? 
Jeslyne Reply
In a single bank system, a bank can create a deposit when it receives a new deposit in cash. If a depositor puts a cash deposit of RM10,000 into the bank, assume the statutory reserve requirement is 7% and the bank adopts a surplus reserve of 8%. a. Calculate the amount of deposits made at the end o
Jeslyne
the part of marginal revenue product curve lies in the _ stage of production is called form demand curve for variable input.
Bashir Reply
The cost associated with the inputs owned by the farmer is termed as
Bashir
the cost associated with inputs owned by the farmer is termed as ____
Bashir
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Nwobodo Reply
we study economics to know how to manage our limited resources
Eben
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myo
we study economics the know how to use our resources and where to put it
Mamoud
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Nwobodo
we study economics to make rational decision
Gloria
we study economics only to know how to effectively and efficiently allocate our limited resource in other to meet our unlimited wants
Kpegba
We study economics inorder for us to know the difference of the needs and wants and aslo how to use the limited resources that are available
Bongani
who is the father of economy
Yajanyi Reply
adam smith
ibrahim
Adam smith
Somnath
professor Lionel Robins
Abraham
adam smith
albert
mariginal utility is finalized by who?
Barsharani
marshall
Aadi
Adam Smith
Laila
Adam smith
Mamoud
Adam Smith
Bongani
Adam smith
Veronica
adam smith barter system
Omed
why we study economics
Kitojo Reply
what is equilibrium price?
BENJAMIN Reply
This is the price In which quantity demanded is equal to the quantity supplied.
Binta
what is the principle of demand
Udoh
is when the price of two item is equal
Mamoud
is the market price at which the demand curve and supply curve of particular commodity interest.
Kpegba
can we say that without macroeconomics,microeconomics can succeed? and why?
Kpegba
equilibrium price is when prices are equal
Ramon
equilibrium price is a point at which demand and supply curve meet
Vedzi
please can you give us the correct answer after the lesson to be compared to our answers
Gloria Reply
in what?
ibrahim
why economics is the real life subject
Kitojo
because it is subjected to human decisions
Kpegba
why might an increase in money national income not necssarily lead to an increase in the standards of living
Multin

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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