Study Shows Americans Agree: Poor Child Well-Being is a Top IssuePoverty & Family Economics
Recently the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released national survey results on perspectives of Americans on child and family well-being in the U.S., with a focus on Americans’ attitudes on issues such as social group affinity, optimism on the country’s future, views of government, child welfare and criminal justice policies, and confidence in child welfare institutions.
The survey highlights perspectives from the Southeast and Southwest., where child poverty is highest, and breaks down responses based on race and ethnicity, political affiliation, and generation.
- The majority of Americans (63 percent) believe that child poverty is one of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. This includes 73 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents, and 45 percent of Republicans. This is much higher than the percentage of 45 percent of Americans who believe overall poverty is a critical issue.
- In addition, more than half of Americans believe that ensuring all children have equal opportunities to succeed and the quality of public schools are critical issues.
- Nearly 90 percent of Americans support providing tax breaks to low-income parents to help them care for their children, including 85 percent of Americans in the Southeast and Southwest.
- 80 percent of Americans surveyed support providing free pre-kindergarten services to all children in their state.
- Nearly nine in ten Americans agree that children whose families cannot afford health insurance should receive coverage through the government.
- 72 percent of Americans say people often agree to become foster parents because of the financial support they receive from the government and more people think that the foster care system is not working well in their state. 46 percent say the system works somewhat or very well and 49 percent say it does not work too well or at all well.
These findings are continuous with another recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, which found strong support from both Democrats and Republicans for policies to reduce child poverty in the U.S.
Supporting Children in Foster Care
In addition, the perception that foster care institutions are not working well is a fair reflection on the struggles many former foster care face. According to National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) data, by the age of 21, 20 percent of youth who had transitioned to adulthood from foster care had been incarcerated at some point, 25 percent had children, only 32 percent were enrolled in and attending an educational program, and 43 percent had experienced homelessness.
Despite the survey indicating that people agree to become foster parents because of the financial support they receive, most children in foster care live in a relative placement, or in a group home or institution setting, with only 45 percent living in a family based non-relative setting. Many are also living with relatives in a less formalized arrangement which caregivers do not receive additional financial support for and can also put a child at risk of living in poverty.
To ensure better outcomes for youth at risk of entering foster care or in foster care, it is imperative that their families have access to services and supports that can help prevent these children from entering foster care to begin with. Nearly half of families (47 percent) who have their children removed from their homes have trouble paying for basic necessities.
This includes increasing and strengthening refundable tax credits, which help parents provide critical resources for their children and are supported by the majority of Americans in this survey. Despite the fact that the EITC and CTC lift millions of children out of poverty each year, there are improvements that can be made to increase their effectiveness at reducing child poverty in the U.S., especially in reducing deep child poverty and better supporting families in their pursuit of economic mobility.
Reducing Child Poverty in the U.S.
Despite the strong public support for addressing child poverty, the U.S. continues to have one of the highest rates of child poverty among developed nations. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 18 percent of children were living in poverty in 2016, and children experience poverty at a rate that is 62.5 percent higher than adults.
We know that when government leaders prioritize child poverty reduction, such as in the example of the UK, significant progress can be made. Therefore, in order to make real headway in reducing child poverty in the U.S., we need a national commitment from political leaders that involves coordinated action on the federal, state and local levels.
The Child Poverty Reduction Act (S. 1630/H.R. 3381) would establish such a commitment by creating a national child poverty target that sets the goal of cutting the U.S. child poverty rate by half within a decade. It would create the accountability to further invest in solutions that work and that are supported by the majority of Americans, such as universal access to early childhood education, quality public schools, affordable public health insurance and increased refundable tax credits.
For additional information and ways to take action to reduce child poverty and improve child well-being:
- Support the Child Poverty Reduction Act
- A Snapshot of Children Living in Poverty: 2016
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Setting the Record Straight