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.
• According to the 2010 census, 16.4 million children and youth live below the poverty line, an increase of nearly 1 million in just one year. 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% (4.4 million), Hispanic children- 35% (6.1 million), Asian children- 14.4% (474,000), White children- 18.7% (10.4 million).
• According to UNICEF, the US ranks 23 out of 24 rich countries in child well-being. These countries have policies which reduce child poverty much more sharply than those in the U.S.
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%.