“Call it a war on poverty, call it expanding the middle class, call it promoting economic security. Call it whatever you want, but start making the connections between the plight of middle-class and lower-income Americans, and get involved.”

This was the call to action closing out a recent piece in The Nation that highlighted the great work being done by the folks over at Half in Ten, a national campaign dedicated to cutting U.S. poverty in half in ten years (full disclosure: First Focus is an endorsing organization of the campaign). The article – largely comprised of an interview with Half in Ten Campaign Manager, Melissa Boteach – zeroes in on the fact that when it comes to poverty and inequality in the U.S., “there is definitely a story going untold”.

It can be argued that if the story is statistics, then sure, there is plenty out there: 47 million Americans live below the poverty line (more than 15.5. million being children); 14.5 million Americans are unemployed; 1 out of 5 households with children are food insecure; and the fastest growing class in the country is the working poor.

But official statistics don’t tell you everything. As one example, policymakers and the press alike have been following the unemployment rate throughout the recession – viewing it either as the next harbinger of doom or the sign of a true economic rebound. But it is a fact that this statistic does not actually capture all the individuals truly out of work in our country each month. Even more so, the unemployment rate does not tell the larger story – that unemployed individuals have families, and that being out of work affects more than just the one person.

To this end, a First Focus analysis of the national unemployment rate in 2010 found that when the rate stood at 9.8%, it translated into the fact that more than 1 in 10 children in the country live with at least one unemployed parent. That is at the very least 7.7 million children directly affected by unemployment. And while “more than 1 in 10” is another statistic, it is also a starting point for where the “story” Boteach references may begin.

Half in Ten says that in order to truly understand what is behind the numbers on poverty and income inequality in the U.S. today, we must make the connections between the experiences of lower-income and middle-class Americans. Going back to the unemployment example again, this is certainly true. We know that unemployment has not just hit one or the other income group – it has been a scourge on both lower- and middle-income families alike – and the long-term effects will equalize them even more. The potential lifetime effects of unemployment on children (interrupted education, increasing likelihood of child abuse or homelessness) are the same for children who start out in middle-class families and those who start out in lower-income families. And the potential lifetime effects set all of these children up for a more precarious future.

What can be done? The article outlines a number of action steps that Half in Ten as a campaign movement will be using to mobilize its national, state, and local partners, but Boteach points out that the looming battle in the near future will be over the federal budget in the new Congress and whether steps taken in the name of deficit reduction will be enacted at the expense of vulnerable and struggling populations (which are currently both low-income and middle-class America arguably). The policy world is already gearing up for this fight, but Half in Ten’s takeaway message is that the story needs to be told as to why these decisions affect us all – and it needs to be told now.

For more information on child poverty and family economics: