High rates of child poverty in USA

Child poverty rates in the USA are high by both historical and international standards, according to a journal article by academics from New York University. The article summarises the best available information on definitions and trends in child poverty, the impact on children’s health and development, and policy responses.


Key points

  • Upward pressure on child poverty tends to be exerted by declining work rates for men, stagnant wages for low-wage workers, increasing rates of children raised in female-headed households, and growing gaps in educational attainment.
  • Downward pressure is being exerted by the system of anti-poverty policies and programmes in the USA, which appears to be cutting 'pre-transfer' poverty rates by more than 50 per cent.
  • Nonetheless, child poverty rates in the USA are high by both historical and international standards. In 2010, 21 per cent of children were living in poverty (calculated by reference to the federal government’s official measure).
  • Poverty’s impact on children’s education and health results in lower economic productivity and higher healthcare costs.
  • Child poverty is not immutable. Indeed, the evidence suggests that existing anti-poverty programmes actually pay for themselves through long-term benefits, and could therefore be expanded on a sustainable basis.
  • Nonetheless, the fact is that the government will have to increase spending on programmes if it is to make progress. It will also need to improve the efficiency of the programmes: currently they exist in 'silos' that are insufficiently co-ordinated to obtain optimum impact.

Source: Lawrence Aber, Pamela Morris and Cybele Raver, 'Children, Families and Poverty Definitions, Trends, Emerging Science and Implications for Policy', Sharing Child and Youth Development Knowledge, Volume 26, Number 3
Link: Article