The contributions to this volume make clear that the social safety net in the United States is large, complex, and robust. In this reflection, we offer insights into the adequacy of the existing safety net to reduce material hardship and meet the future challenges facing this nation. Our perspective is broad and moves from the effects of each individual program covered in this volume to the safety net’s function as a whole and its relation to employment and earnings. We offer a framework for reform that we believe should guide policy-makers and analysts moving forward, and we comment on challenges and potential solutions offered in this collection of work. We conclude with some suggestions for how the safety net can better support employment as the cornerstone of an antipoverty agenda and, by extension, help to build strong families and communities. With this framework in mind, we challenge the next generation of social safety net reformers to reconsider the structure of the social safety net, so it is focused on work, strong families, and vibrant communities.
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