KidsCountLast week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released their annual Kids Count Data Book, a critical resource to understanding the challenges facing our nation’s children. It provides state-by-state data on a range of indicators of child well-being, including economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

The data sends a clear message – child poverty remains high, despite the fact that our economy is improving since the recession. April’s national unemployment rate was at its lowest level since April 2008. Yet children living in poverty have not felt much of the economic progress made. In 2013, 31 percent of children were living in families where no parent had full-time, year-round employment.

This is especially true for children and families of color. Black children are nearly twice as likely to be living in poverty as white children, and the unemployment rate remains significantly higher for African Americans and Latinos.

The fact that more children are living were living in poverty in 2013 than 2008 is only part of the story – things could have been much worse for children if it was not for programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which lifted millions of children out of poverty during the recession, and continues to do so. In 2013 alone, refundable tax credits and SNAP together lifted nearly 7 million children out of poverty.

Yet there is clearly more to be done. We need to build on the successes of these programs, and double down on our efforts to reduce child poverty, with a focus on reducing racial disparities.

Despite resources like the Kids Count Data Book that raise attention to the plight of children living in poverty, there remains a lack of awareness and government accountability to address the significant problem of child poverty, and proposed solutions are too often politicized and fall along partisan lines.

One way to break this gridlock is to establish a target to reduce child poverty. Establishing a target is not unprecedented – in 1999, the United Kingdom established a national child poverty target, which united the Conservative and Labour parties. Measured in U.S. terms, the UK’s Child Poverty Target and resulting policy changes cut Britain’s child poverty rate by 50 percent during the effort’s first decade (1999-2009). By contrast, the U.S. child poverty rate increased by 23 percent, from 16.2 percent in 2000 to 19.9 percent in 2014.

First Focus Campaign for Children has been working closely with Congress on efforts to establish a national child poverty target and due to the leadership of Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2015 (HR 2408) was introduced in May. It is already endorsed by 250 organizations nationwide.

This legislation would set a goal to cut child poverty in half in ten years and eliminate it within 20 years, as well as:

  • Charge  a Federal Interagency Working Group on Reducing Child Poverty with developing a plan to reach that target, including recommendations to improve the coordination and efficiency of existing initiatives and recommendations for new legislation required to reach the target;
  • Request the National Academy of Sciences to assist in the development of a plan by researching the societal costs of child poverty and make non-partisan recommendations on how to reduce child poverty; and
  • Task the working group with monitoring progress toward the target at the federal and state levels.

Let’s use the information in the Kids Count Data Book to hold our elected officials accountable to reducing child poverty.

Learn more and take action to join the movement to establish a national child poverty target.

Kids Count: child poverty and how to cut it in half – v/ @Campaign4Kids #KidsCount
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Want to learn more? First Focus Campaign for Children is a bipartisan organization advocating to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. Read more about our work on child poverty.

Want to get involved? You can support our work by making a donation, joining our mailing list to receive updates and action alerts on these issues, or taking action right now in support of the child poverty target bill.