National Youth Poverty Poll Ranks Lack of Jobs as #1 Cause of Poverty

American young people say that the top two causes of poverty are a lack of jobs (82.8 percent) followed by a lack of health insurance (69.4 percent) according to a new national survey of young Americans’ attitudes on poverty, conducted by Hamilton. More than two-thirds (67.7 percent) also cited the growing incomes of the wealthiest people as negatively affecting the quality of life of those with lower incomes. The full results of this survey will be available online and presented by webcast on Monday, Dec. 12, at 11 a.m. EST at www.hamilton.edu/poverty. Questions during the presentation can be posed via Twitter using #povertypoll.


Professor of Economics Paul Hagstrom and students in his Economics of Poverty class collaborated with the research firm, Knowledge Networks, to conduct the national poll which queried more than 1,652 Americans aged 18-29, 60 percent of whom were Caucasian, 19 percent of whom were Hispanic and 13 percent were African-American.  Based on this sample, the margin of error for all respondents is approximately +/- 2.5 percent.  This online survey was conducted during November 2011 and was funded by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center. Questions may be sent to Hagstrom at phagstro@hamilton.edu.

To measure attitudes toward poverty, respondents were asked how various national issues affected poverty, their perception of poor citizens’ handling of money, the causes of poverty and how and by whom poor people should be helped. These are some of the significant findings:


  • 58 percent feel the wealthy have a responsibility to help the poor, and 62.6 percent feel those earning $200,000 and above should pay more taxes
  • If the government reduced its overall spending, 53.4 percent said national defense as the first area from which cuts should be made when the selection includes infrastructure spending, programs for low income families and social security.

Complete results will be available at www.hamilton.edu/poverty on Monday, Dec. 12, at 11 a.m. EST along with a webcast presented by Hagstrom and four students.

Hagstrom and his students at Hamilton devised the poll questions, which were distributed via the Knowledge Networks Panel, an online, non-volunteer access panel whose members are chosen through a statistically valid sampling frame covering 99 percent of the U.S. population. 


This survey is one of a series of national youth polls funded by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center. Previous polls have focused on young Americans’ attitudes toward the environment, abortion, patriotism, immigration, politics and the U.S. Senate, Muslim Americans, gay issues, gun regulation and race issues.

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