Reducing the Child Poverty Rate
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
In 2007, nearly one in five or 18 percent of children in the United States lived in poverty. African American (35 percent), American Indian (33 percent) and Latino (27 percent) children are more likely to live in poverty than their white (11 percent) and Asian (12 percent) counterparts. Although many children live in poverty, many more lack a decent standard of living as their families hover near the poverty line or move in and out of official poverty from year to year. The trend is worsening. Between 2000 and 2007, the number of children living in poverty increased by 14.7 percent, from 12.2 million to 13.1 million.
Five strategies are essential for any plan aimed at reducing the child poverty rate.
- Build political will to reduce child poverty. Government policy can powerfully affect families’ standards of living and children’s life chances. Advocacy efforts matter because without public support, policies and programs to reduce child poverty cannot succeed. Advocates must confront three myths that have impeded progress: that child poverty is inevitable; that poverty is limited to children whose parents do not or cannot work, and that only a small percentage of American children face daily hardship.
- Make work pay. If jobs are to lift families out of poverty, they must be good jobs. Making work pay means, in part, supporting efforts to raise the minimum wage, expanding job benefits for low-wage workers, and increasing opportunities for education and job training.
- Help low-income families keep more of what they earn. For many families, work alone is not sufficient to alleviate economic hardship. Policymakers can increase the rewards of working by introducing (or strengthening) tax policies aimed at supplementing low wages and helping working poor families gain economic stability.
- Strengthen the safety net. The years 2002 to 2007 saw a shift in the U.S. economy to lower-wage occupations (paying under $11.80 per hour), as well as a decrease in real wages in these occupations. As a result, a growing number of working families lack the earnings to cover basic expenses, let alone save for a rainy day. For these families, any kind of setback can spell disaster. Strengthening the safety net means, in part, improving unemployment insurance and ensuring that children receive all of the government benefits for which they are eligible, such as food stamps and health coverage.
- Help low-income families build up savings and assets. Four out of five low-income working families are asset poor, lacking enough liquid savings to live without earnings for three months at the Federal Poverty Line.
To read the whole indicator brief go to Reducing the Child Poverty Rate