old woman shopping in shuk 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
An OECD report released last week found that Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world – 20.9%, compared to an OECD average of 11.3%. Granted, this number may be exaggerated: Only 9.3% of Israelis said they couldn’t afford adequate food, which is significantly less than the OECD average of 13.2%. Nevertheless, Israel’s official poverty rate has been persistently high for years, and the government consequently established a commission on how to fight poverty last year. Unfortunately, based on media reports, the recommendations the Alalouf Committee is slated to issue next month seem unlikely to break much new ground: They center on time-honored measures like raising various types of welfare allowances. But Western countries have been throwing money at poverty for decades with limited success; thus there’s no reason to think more of the same will produce different results. What’s needed is a broader reform of Israel’s anti-poverty efforts – and a new study by Israeli-born Eldar Shafir, a psychology professor at Princeton University, offers useful insights.