A victory for American children living in poverty occurred today – the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the House Labor- HHS Appropriations bill by voice vote. The amendment, offered by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA,),  takes a critical first step to reducing child poverty in the US.

Specifically, the amendment directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide an evidence-based, non-partisan analysis of the macroeconomic, health, and crime/social costs of children poverty and publish recommendations to reduce the number of children living in poverty in the United States by half in ten years.

Children in the U.S. continue to disproportionately experience poverty – they represent 23 percent of the U.S. population but make up over 32 percent of people living in poverty.

Poverty is a particularly serious problem for children as the negative effects linger for the rest of their lives, even after living in poverty for even a short time. Conditions associated with living in poverty including substandard housing, lack of nutrition, overcrowding, and exposure to violence can be toxic to a developing brain.

Despite this significant problem, there remains a lack of awareness and government accountability to address child poverty, and proposed solutions are too often politicized and fall along partisan lines.

The NAS has a long history of addressing social policy questions in a balanced, judicious, and non-partisan manner.  A NAS study on child poverty in the U.S. would not only raise awareness about the problem, but also go a step further by providing a set of recommendations to reduce child poverty that would provide a basis for lawmakers to build consensus towards action.

First Focus Campaign for Children is grateful for Congresswoman Roybal-Allard and Congresswoman Lee’s tireless leadership on behalf of children and families. As the federal appropriations process moves forward, we urge Congress to prioritize this study so we can begin to build awareness and consensus to reduce child poverty in the US.