*Originally published in City Journals
Salt Lake County is a place that offers tremendous opportunity for its residents to live, work, and raise a family. The county has a solid 2.6 percent job growth rate and low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, both indicators of a growing economy.
We know that job growth and free enterprise are the best tools to help people escape poverty, and we’ve seen that manifested in Salt Lake County, throughout Utah, and even across the globe.
However, for some Salt Lake County residents, there are still additional barriers to tapping into that economic opportunity. I’m referring specifically to intergenerational poverty, which is a unique, more chronic form of poverty defined by use of public assistance continuing from one generation to the next. It typically afflicts young single mothers who have limited education, and are raising young children. Single parenthood, lack of education, and lack of steady employment are the biggest risk factors.
A child who grows up in a home dependent on public assistance has a higher risk of remaining in poverty as they become an adult, correlating with more use of welfare and the continuation of the cycle. More than 37,000 people are living in this cycle of poverty today in Salt Lake County (more than 16,000 adults and 20,000 children).
In October, I asked the County Council for support to create the Salt Lake County Intergenerational Poverty Task Force. They unanimously approved the new initiative, which will focus on how to help families stuck in a cycle of poverty in our county.
For several years now, the state’s Department of Workforce Services has been collecting data and publishing research on intergenerational poverty, to equip policymakers at both the state and local level with as much information as possible. We’re constantly learning more about the factors that contribute to this form of poverty, and the obstacles faced by those impacted.
The bottom line is this: intergenerational poverty is fundamentally different and more intractable than traditional poverty. Thousands of our neighbors are trapped in reliance on public assistance, limiting their ability to contribute to our economy and community, and presenting a significant cost to taxpayers. This situation also brings increased rates of abuse, less stable housing and home environments, and challenges finding steady employment.
Their children represent the next generation of this cycle, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Since the problem is unique, so too must be the solution.
The Salt Lake County Intergenerational Poverty Task Force will bring together willing partners from different spheres, including county government, regional representatives from state government, school districts, and other relevant community leaders in our county to discuss ways to align current anti-poverty efforts for improved outcomes specific to intergenerational poverty.
Every resident in our county deserves the opportunity to work, innovate, and contribute in a way that allows them to unlock their full potential, and to break free of the harmful effects their impoverished state. Every child in our county deserves the chance to grow up equipped with the right foundation to earn their own success as adults, hopefully never needing to rely on welfare.
Simply put, we need to recruit them into helping us build the future of Salt Lake County. With the right approach, I believe we’ll succeed.
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Aimee Winder Newton
Aimee Winder Newton has served since 2014 and represents Taylorsville, Murray, West Jordan, and West Valley City on the Salt Lake County Council. She was a former 2020 Republican candidate for Utah Governor and was the first woman elected as chair of the Council. Aimee works tirelessly to defend the quality of life in Salt Lake County while protecting tax dollars... [read more]
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aimee winder newton: County Council district 3