Persistent poverty can interfere with children’s ability to learn. It can lead to poor health, drug use, crime, and incarceration, among other risky behaviors and consequences that extract a hefty toll on the individuals and society.
- 16.4 million children and youth live below the poverty line. Over 7.3 million children live below 50% of the poverty line. Millions more are in low-wage families with parents who work full-time but simply cannot earn enough to provide for basic family needs.
- African American and Hispanic children are disproportionately poor; Black children - 39% (4.1 million) and Hispanic children - 34% (5.8 million) compared to Asian children - 14% (473,000) and White children - 14% (5.2 million).
- The United States ranks 28th in the world in child poverty, below countries like Greece, Lithuania, and Latvia.
The rich countries that have a much lower child poverty rate than the U.S. have a much higher rate of government intervention—namely taxes and transfers.
We know, too, that a variety of programs to assist the poor make a difference as well. The programs of the 1960s—Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, low income energy assistance all combined to bring child poverty to a record low of 15%.