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How to end child poverty for 60% of poor children and 72% of poor Black children today

January 31, 2015

by Marian Wright Edelman

Poverty hurts children and our nation’s future. This stark statement is backed by years of scientific research, and the more we learn about the brain and its development the more devastatingly true we know this to be. Childhood poverty can and does scar children for life. Yet in the largest economy on earth, we stand by as 14.7 million languish in poverty. Here’s a snapshot of who our poor children are today:

  • Every other baby is a child of color. And 1 in 2 Black babies is poor – the poorest child in America.
  • 1 in 3 Hispanic children under 5 is poor during their years of rapid brain development.
  • More than 1 in 4 urban children and nearly 1 in 4 rural children is poor.
  • 1 in 5 of all children in America is poor – 14.7 million children.
  • 1 in 6 Black children is extremely poor, living on less than $8 a day.
  • 1 in 7 Hispanic children under five is extremely poor.
  • 1 in 8 Hispanic children is poor.
  • Fewer than 1 in 9 White children is poor – 4.1 million children.

'Ending Child Poverty Now' coverA child of color is more than twice as likely to be poor as a White child. Of the 14.7 million children living beneath the poverty line in 2013, defined as a family of four living on less than $23,834 a year, or $16.25 a person a day, over 40 percent lived in extreme poverty on less than $11,917 a year, half the poverty line – barely $8 a person a day.

The 14.7 million poor children in America exceeds the populations of 12 U.S. states combined: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming and is greater than the populations of Sweden and Costa Rica combined.

Our nearly 6.5 million extremely poor children exceeds the combined populations of Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming and is greater than the populations of Denmark or Finland.

It is a national disgrace that so many poor children live in the United States of America – the world’s richest economy. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s costly. And it’s the greatest threat to our future national, economic and military security.

The Children’s Defense Fund has just released a groundbreaking report called Ending Child Poverty Now showing for the first time how America could end child poverty, as defined by the Supplemental Poverty measure, for 60 percent of all poor children and 72 percent of all poor Black children. We can make this happen by investing another 2 percent of the federal budget to improve existing programs and policies that increase parental employment, make work pay and ensure children’s basic needs are met.

It is a national disgrace that so many poor children live in the United States of America – the world’s richest economy. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Poverty for children under 3 and children in single parent households would drop 64 percent, and 97 percent of all poor children would experience improvements in their economic circumstances.

A companion report by the Children’s Defense Fund-California presents specific state policy recommendations for how California can reduce child poverty, including raising the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit and expanding child care for low-income children. Child poverty is a moral and economic crisis that California cannot afford to ignore.

After passage of the Civil Rights Act, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. focused on economic racism. He learned how people – urban and rural – cope with deep poverty by visiting them, often staying as a guest in their home for a time. Here he visits a family in Greenwood, Miss., in July 1964. When he died, he was finalizing plans for the Poor People’s Campaign. But that work is far from finished. The Black poverty rate in 2011 was almost as high as in 1969, the year after King was assassinated. Dr. King said, “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” – Photo: Jim Bourdier, AP

After passage of the Civil Rights Act, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. focused on economic racism. He learned how people – urban and rural – cope with deep poverty by visiting them, often staying as a guest in their home for a time. Here he visits a family in Greenwood, Miss., in July 1964. When he died, he was finalizing plans for the Poor People’s Campaign. But that work is far from finished. The Black poverty rate in 2011 was almost as high as in 1969, the year after King was assassinated. Dr. King said, “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” – Photo: Jim Bourdier, AP

Why, in one of the wealthiest states in the nation, do we allow a quarter of California children – and one-third of African-American and Latino children – to grow up poor? Poverty denies our children an equal opportunity to succeed in life and prevents our state from developing a thriving middle class. We must end child poverty in California – and we know how to do it!

CDF contracted with the non-partisan, independent Urban Institute to generate real numbers on the costs to implement improvements to existing policies and programs and the number of children who would benefit. CDF’s report shows how relatively modest changes in policies we know work can be combined to significantly reduce child poverty.

And those changes can be implemented right now if our political leaders put common good, common sense and economic sense for children first to improve the lives and futures of millions of children – and save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

We must end child poverty in California – and we know how to do it!

CDF’s report estimates a cost of $77.2 billion a year for the combined proposed policy improvements and suggests multiple tradeoffs our country can make to pay for this huge, long overdue and urgently needed reduction in child poverty without raising the federal deficit, including:

  • Closing tax loopholes that let U.S. corporations avoid $90 billion annually in federal income taxes by shifting profits to subsidiaries in foreign tax havens; or
  • Eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy by taxing capital gains and dividends at the same rate as wages, saving more than $84 billion a year; or
  • Scrapping the F-35 fighter jet program already several years behind schedule and 68 percent over budget and still not producing fully functioning planes. For the $1.5 trillion projected costs of this program, the nation could reduce child poverty 60 percent for 19 years, potentially breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Download CDF’s new report and share it widely with your child advocacy networks and faith communities to learn changes that can be made at the national, state and local levels. Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, it’s time for all Americans to work together to finish the job, beginning with ending child poverty in our nation with the largest economy on earth.

Sign up for actions you can take for a real plan to end child poverty now, at http://www.childrensdefense.org/take-action/stay-informed.html.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund and its Action Council whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChildDefender.

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3 thoughts on “How to end child poverty for 60% of poor children and 72% of poor Black children today

  1. Richard

    Perhaps the theories of Thomas Malthus must be taken more seriously. The problem of black & hispanic poverty has been grinding on for decades (if not centuries) – a problem that no government initiative or intervention has been able to solve. Quite simply, to reduce poverty civilazations must limit population. The richest nations have the lowest populations – and have the highest racially homogenous populations – fewer marginalized groups. Unfortunately, the poor have the most children – especially in those countries that subsidize poverty in order to assauge some misguided national guilt. The wealthy limit their children to what they can afford to feed, educate and raise to adulthood. The poor just keep pumping out sentient protein in an attempt to achieve by numbers what the wealthy achieve through discipline. Pity the poor – indulge them – feed and house them – and as history proves – you just get more poor. We cannot throw money at this – we cannot ask tax payers to subsidize misfortune – because as we can see from illegal migrants pouring over the borders into the US and Europe – more will come expecting to be housed, clothed, fed and education at the expense of the middle class who will struggle to pay their taxes until even they are economically overwhelmed. Look at Africa and South America – that's what the US will become as more pour in and bring their misery with them. If we do not keep these numbers down the US will become a crime-ridden 3rd world nation, like India, unable to manage its numbers.

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  2. anne

    We should all learn about this. I think people generally think that children don't realize what being poor means so it's not really a problem when they're little cause they don't know better anyway. But it's very wrong. A poor child is deprived of a lot of experiences and tools he need in order to develop well and learn as much as he can in these crucial first years.

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  3. superrіorpaper

    The life of the students and individuals is very important and vital. The needs and requirements of the life are organized and civilized. The skills and abilities of the system are instilled and inculcated. It is inquisitive and curious.

    Reply

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