One might think that child poverty is a bigger concern around the globe than it is in America. While this is certainly a global problem, it may surprise you that more than one in five American children lives in poverty. According to recent Census data, that is more than 16 million American children. Voices For America’s Children (VOICES), one of the largest advocacy networks for child policy in the nation, gives insight by examining child poverty in the U.S.
Although VOICES believes this high child poverty rate is partly due to the recession and high unemployment, it also believes the recession has had an effect on the programs that families depend on.The recession has forced the government to make federal budget cuts, and unfortunately children and family programs are the first to be dealt. Programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start and other programs have been in line for deep cuts. Head Start recently has been gutted by the sequestration cuts. The recession and the pile up of federal debt are important to address, but it should not come immediately at the expense of American children and families.
Statistics on Race and Family Structure
VOICES goes on to examine other telling child poverty statistics regarding race and family structure in America. Children who are Hispanic or Black have the highest child poverty rates at 27 percent and 33 percent, respectively. This is in stark contrast to White and Asian children, who are around 14 and 12 percent.The family structure is another important signifier of child poverty in this country.
Census data also shows us that child poverty rates are significantly higher in single parent families as opposed to married-couple families. The disparity in the statistics shows that the poverty rate for children living with single mothers is 42 percent; 21 percent for single fathers, compared to 8 percent for married-couple families. Seeing these figures provides an interesting lens that shows the seriousness of the child poverty rates after distinguishing both race and family structure.
In order to address the child poverty rates in the U.S., policies affecting families have to be maintained and implemented to reduce poverty overall. It is difficult with unemployment still high, meaning many families remain dependent on food stamps and Medicaid. However, VOICES recommends reducing poverty through several methods including instituting a living wage, better use of tax credits, health care, affordable housing, child care subsidies, nutrition programs, among others.
Policy initiatives and better work support are needed to aid American families below the poverty rate, especially single parent families led by single mothers and of races such as Hispanic or Black. While it is in the hands of the policymakers to devise effective solutions to these issues, it is up to us to keep ourselves informed, educated, and improve our advocacy for better child and family policy. Although child poverty rates in the U.S. remain high, perhaps the second highest in the world, we can take steps in the right direction to improve the conditions and lives of America’s future generations.