Yesterday the U.S. Census Bureau reported that despite gains in our economy and low unemployment, child poverty in the U.S. remains stubbornly high at 17.5 percent, and children continue to disproportionately experience poverty in the U.S.
While children make up 22.7 percent of our population, they comprise 32.3 percent of the population living in poverty. And children of color continue to experience poverty at a rate nearly three times that of white children.
Yet the child poverty rate would be much higher without effective anti-poverty programs such as refundable tax credits which lifted 4.5 million children out of poverty in 2017, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which lifted nearly 1.5 million children out of poverty.
The U.S. Child Poverty Action Group, a partnership of national organizations dedicated to cutting our national child poverty rate in half, recently published a compendium of over 20 policy solutions that can significantly reduce child poverty and support a better quality of life for all children.
Papers in the compendium include recommendations on increasing access to affordable and quality childcare and early childhood education, reducing the effect of poverty on student achievement and attainment, addressing the increase in child welfare cases due to the opioid crisis, increasing families’ access to housing assistance, retooling the federal homeless assistance system, creating a universal paid family leave program, reducing the gender wage gap, addressing unique barriers faced by children of immigrants, supporting family asset building, meeting the needs of low-income children with special healthcare needs, and more.
We urge lawmakers to implement these recommendations and prioritize child poverty so that every child in the U.S. has a fair shot at achieving their full potential.
“Child poverty is a solvable problem,” stated Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, “Our high child poverty rate is due to the lack of political will to address it. Reducing child poverty is not only the right thing to do, but makes smart economic sense – child poverty costs our society over $1.2 trillion each year. In a booming economy, we can do better than 12.8 million children living in poverty. I urge lawmakers to develop and implement a national strategy to reduce child poverty in the U.S.”
“Every child deserves a strong start in life. Action by the states is essential to reducing child poverty, and there has been progress in many states. The federal government must do more to incentivize, reward and resource the states so that this progress can continue and expand,” says John Bouman, President of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
“The data released today confirms what we have seen in our communities around the country—our families continue struggling to make ends meet and children bear the brunt with no relief in sight. We are gravely concerned about the continued threats to programs that lift families out of poverty including millions of Latino children, who are already more than twice as likely as white children to live in poverty. The Administration and Congress must choose to prioritize reducing child poverty; our children and our economy depend on it.” –Samantha Vargas Poppe, Director, Policy Analysis Center, UnidosUS
“An estimated 14 million children live in poverty across America, nearly one in five. That is far too high for our children to have the best start in life. Rural poverty rates have also remained deep and pervasive. Research is clear the growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development. Fortunately, there is a way out. Experts agree that high-quality early childhood education is not only essential in ensuring a bright future for kids, especially those living in poverty, but it also boosts our economy. A report from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that the rate of return on investments in early childhood education can be 13 percent per year, because of improved outcomes in education, health, economic productivity and reduced crime. We must invest in early learning for our children today and for generations to come.” –Kris Perry, President of Save the Children Action Network
Although there has been modest progress in reducing the poverty rate, our youngest children, those under age 6 years old, continue to experience poverty more often than any other age group. In 2017, 19.2 percent of children under age 6 living with their families were in poverty–a higher rate than any other group. And among children of single mother-headed families, 48.2 percent of young children are in poverty. The EITC, SNAP, and other programs have proven effective in reducing child poverty, but our current programs do not go far enough to ensure that all children. “It’s critical that young children and their families have access to the basic needs necessary to thrive,” said Joanne Goldblum, CEO of the National Diaper Bank Network. “This report shows that there is still work to be done in this area.”
The U.S. Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG USA) is a broad-based coalition of non-profit, child-focused organizations and individuals dedicated to cutting the child poverty rate in half within 10 years. For more information, follow CPAG on Twitter @CPAG_USA or visit www.childpovertyusa.org.