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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 business economics
Nelson Reply
business economics is the way the society uses its limited resources to satisfy their unlimited wants
Sekai
what is business economics
THOMAS Reply
how did Mc connel defined economics
Isaac Reply
what is a economy planning?
Jacob Reply
what is demand
Sunday Reply
demand means desire for a commodity backed by willingness & ability to pay for that commodity
Rajesh
what is supply
Akoheni
supply means suppliers supplying more commodities when price's high or less when price's low to satisfy human want
Prince
the coefficient of price elasticity of supply is the measure of percentage change in the quantity supplied of a good due to a given percentage change in its price.
Khushiba
Please what is Economics of Scales?
Prince
what is cardinal and ordinal utility?
Khushiba
Cardinal utility is the satisfaction derived by the consumers from the consumption of goods and services while ordinal is ranked in terms of preference.
Grace
👍
Khushiba
Please explain what is meant by Economic Integration?
Prince
Please I need help!!!!
Prince
economics scales I don't know but I know laws of returns to scale
Khushiba
hello
TIMAH
hello
Khushiba
can someone help explain to me what is fairly inelastic dd
TIMAH
Economics Economics - The study of how people use their limited resources to try to satisfy unlimited wants
Abdullah
Economic integration has been one of the main economic developments affecting international trade in the last years. Countries have wanted to engage in economic cooperation to use their respective resources more effectively and to provide large markets for member-countries of the resulting integrate
Abdullah
Inelastic Demand When consumers are relatively unresponsive to price changes. A PED coefficient of less than one means that a particular change in the price of a good will be met by a proportionally smaller change in the quantity demanded.
Abdullah
demand refers to goods and services that a consumer is willing and able to buy at given rate over a given period of time
Freeman
Demand  - The entire relationship between the quantity of product that buyers wish to purchase per period time and the price of that product..
Abdullah
what is development planning?
Emmanuel Reply
What is economics?
Shubham Reply
economics is study of scarcity and how humans make decisions.
sade
reason for development planning in West Africa
Emmanuel
what is development planning?
Emmanuel
What is homo Economicus?
nongo Reply
when a person is part 50% rational and the other part of him is 50% focused on money as an incentive
Yahir
what makes the economy to be stable
BELDON Reply
what measures are necessary to the economy which is not doing fine
BELDON
must find out the problems originating from and take remedy for it.
Rigved
Economics as a social science Discuss
Sire
list and explain three implication of balance of payment disequilibrium
Jayson Reply
In economics pollution, what's spillover?
Chinedum Reply
spillover the connection between one part of an economy and another. This can either be financial, where one firm’s actions have a financial effect on another firm, or non-financial where the firm’s actions have an effect on another firm to which no value can be applied, as in the case of pollution
Abdullah
what is net national income
Ibrahim Reply
National income National income - The value of total output and of the income that is generated by the production of that output. (usually in one year).
Abdullah
relation between business economics and traditional economics
Netra Reply
more explanation on GDP
Isaac Reply
it is a country total out put of goods and services divided by the total population of the country.I think it can also be derived from the country labour force,,because it mostly depend on the labour force and the level of technology .
Tantoh
labour force and technological progress leads to greater production increases the GDP
Ahmed
what is elasticity of demand
Jessica
degree of responsiveness of demand to changes in price and other factors that influence demand.
OBIAJULUM
It is the degree of responsiveness of demand and supply to a little change in price of a goods and services
Ibrahim
What is economics?
Bubu Reply
by this time
Emmanuel
It is a social science that analyses production,distribution and consumption of goods and services
Emmanuel
A social science that study human behavior in relationship with decision making
Jessica
a social science that studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which has alternative uses
Charllote
it is a science that study human begin as a relation to ends and scarce should which have alternative uses
Ibrahim
the science in which we study about the investement of our wealth.
Atteq
what is competitive demand
joe
a competitive demand is also known as substitute demand .the moment the price of the commodity increase consumers will purchase the other other commodity which it's price is low and the vice versa. an example is milo and bournvita
Yussif
what is different between equilibrium and demand?
Moses
equilibrium is a situation where market is stable there is no entry nor exit. demand is the willingness to pay Which is backed by law.
Yussif
list and explain three implication of balance of payment disequilibrium?
Jayson
Economics is a social science that study's human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scares means which have alternative uses
Patrick

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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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