Hazardous Crosscurrents

Confronting Inequality in an Era of Devolution

John D. Donahue
Release Date: June 1, 1999

The widening of the gap between the rich and the poor since the early 1970s has been well documented. Relatively little attention has been paid, however, to whether the devolution of governmental responsibilities from the federal to state level will simplify or complicate efforts to alleviate inequality.

In this report, John D. Donahue analyzes devolution from the standpoint of four realms of public policy: workplace laws, education and job training, antipoverty efforts, and taxes. Policymakers attempting to improve life for Americans at the lower end of the income ladder are apt to consider using tools available in each of those areas. But, largely because of devolution, Donahue concludes, the effectiveness of those tools in addressing inequality is likely to be weakened