Walter E. Williams

According to the 1995 Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, only 5 percent of those in the bottom 20 percent category of income earners in 1975 were still there in 1991. What happened to them? A majority made it to the top 60 percent of the income distribution -- middle class or better -- over that 16-year span. Almost 29 percent of them rose to the top 20 percent.

The evidence suggests that low income is largely a transitory experience for those willing to work. There's no mystery to it: As a function of age, people get wiser and gain more experience. That means it's not very intelligent to think one can make meaningful statements about poverty simply by measuring income at a particular point in time. By the way, people are also mobile downward, as suggested by the joke that the easiest way to become a Texas millionaire is to start out as a Texas billionaire.

Here's Williams' roadmap out of poverty: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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