In light of the growing federal deficit, pressure is mounting to cut federal spending. If the budget for social security programs is cut, who will suffer? This article presents the results of a study that investigated the degree to which taxes and public income transfers change the level of income, the degree of inequality in income distribution, and the poverty rates of various demographic groups. Major findings are that public income transfers are more powerful than taxes in equalizing the income distribution and that poverty reduction through non-means-tested transfer programs is more effective among elderly people, white people, and people in married-couple families, whereas poverty reduction through means-tested transfer programs is more effective among nonelderly people, black people, and people in female-headed families. Implications for social work practice are discussed.
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