The Public Interest

The hidden jobs debate

Lawrence M. Mead

Spring 1988

WE OFTEN think of poverty as a condition visited on the poor by nameless social forces. Poverty appears in government statistics simply as the “status” of certain people, disembodied of its causes. The view that the poor are passive victims of conditions is valid mainly for the elderly and disabled, whom society does not expect to work. It is implausible for families headed by working-aged, able-bodied adults, who today comprise a majority of the poor. For these families, the immediate cause of poverty is often that their adult members do not work normal hours.


Download a PDF of the full article.



from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.