The shocking reality is that child poverty in the US is alive and well. In fact, a shockingly high number of children will be born into poverty. In 2017 there were over 3.8m babies were born, fully 1/7th of them will be born into poverty.
To put it in perspective, Oxfam report that in the US, 50 million live in poverty. 15 million of them are children. How is this possible in a country like the US?
What does extreme poverty mean?
There is a number. I hope you’re sitting down because the number is shocking, but extreme poverty for a family of 4 living in the USA today is the shockingly un-livable number of $12,129 a year. This means that children are simply not getting enough nutrition at the time when brains are developing. You will not be shocked to hear that the situation worsens for Hispanic and black children. Hispanic children are twice as likely to be born into terrifying poverty than their white counterparts.
On top of dealing with hunger, these children are also more likely to have to deal with broken homes, a lack of education and a disastrously unstable emotional base. The result is ongoing crisis waiting to happen.
Poverty doesn’t respect geography
Boston’s child poverty rate is 26.9% Texas’ is a degrading 47%. There is no real pattern of poverty. In New York City in 2017 10% of children in the public school system were homeless. The reading is bleak wherever you look.
The government is positively opting out
Cuts in social service and Obamacare show the government actively and callously backing away from the issue. Changes to voting rights and gerrymandering mean the people who need government help aren’t even able to vote an alternative system in.
Who is making a difference?
It is the charities who are stepping in and are making a difference in the US. The big ones like Oxfam have active campaigns aimed at alleviating child poverty. If this feels like you’re reading about a third world country you are right. The difference is that this country is one of the richest in the world and has the ability to feed its own population, it simply elects (and I use the word advisedly), it simply elects not too.
What should be done?
There is a list of measures we could take which will make a difference. Boosting the federal minimum wage to the staggeringly low rate of $10.10 an hour could reduce child poverty by 4% – lifting nearly a quarter million children above the poverty line.
Preschool and child care improvement will help to break the poverty education cycle. The two go hand-in-hand. Parents who themselves have little to no education are poorer than those who do, and the effect is a vicious circle.
A change in attitude suggesting which says that poverty is not inevitable will make the biggest difference or all. If we believe collectively this is a public shame, a great deal could happen quickly.