It is a national moral disgrace that children remain the poorest age group in the United States of America—one of the richest countries in the world. It is also unnecessary, costly and the greatest threat to the nation’s future national, economic and military security. Nearly 1-in-5 children were poor in 2016—that’s more than 13.2 million children—and over 45 percent of these children lived in extreme poverty at less than half the poverty level. Nearly 70% of poor children were children of color. About 1-in-3 Black and American Indian/ Alaska Native children and 1-in-4 Hispanic children were poor, compared with 1-in-9 White children. The youngest children are most likely to be poor, with more than 1-in-5 children under age 6 living in poverty during the years of rapid brain development.
Child poverty hurts children and our nation’s future. It creates gaps in cognitive skills for very young children, puts children at greater risk of hunger and homelessness which jeopardize their health and ability to learn and fuels the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
We envision an America where no child lives in poverty and all children have the opportunities they need to reach their full potential. Protecting children against the lifelong consequences of poverty will improve their life and reduce child poverty in future generations. As a country, we have the resources to end child poverty and now must create the will to do so. We cannot afford to wait. The future of our children—and our nation—depends on it.
Ending child poverty will take a multi-issue approach. For starters, we must ensure children‘s basic needs are met. One way is by increasing investments in housing assistance for poor families, so they all can afford a safe and stable home to raise their children. Another way is to increase the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to cover a larger portion of the nutrition needs of children, so they are healthy and ready to learn. And we must make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable to ensure families benefit from the child support they need and deserve.
We must also see to it that working families are being paid increasing wages, expand subsidized jobs with special attention to the needs of young adults who are disconnected from school and work, and provide access to quality, reliable child care.
To reduce child poverty long term, children also need access to affordable comprehensive physical and behavioral healthcare, affordable high-quality early development and learning opportunities, high performing schools and colleges, and families and neighborhoods free from violence.
The Children’s Defense Fund’s new edition of our Ending Child Poverty Now report shows our nation can help millions of today’s children escape poverty now by simply improving and investing in existing policies and programs to increase employment, make work pay and meet children’s basic needs. Click the button below to access the full report.
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