In America, nearly 12 million children are poor and without healthcare. That’s 1 in 7 kids, which makes up almost one-third of all people living in poverty in our country. This should not be happening in one of the world’s wealthiest countries. With that child poverty has remained defiantly high for decades across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is made up of 37 countries including Denmark, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom, the United States is consistently ranked as one of the worst in child poverty rates.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession continue to devastate the United States, children are facing the consequences of failed leadership. Since April 2020, the share of children with at least one unemployed parent has consistently remained above reported rates during the peak of the Great Recession. More than 4 in 10 children live in a household struggling to meet basic expenses, and between 7 million and 11 million children live in households in which they are unable to eat enough because of the cost. When the pandemic forced schools to shift to distanced and virtual learning, it worsened the barriers to quality education for low-income children and pushed their parents, particularly mothers, to choose between caregiving and employment. Without major interventions, an economic recovery will leave low-income and marginalized people—and their children—behind. Some calculations are finding that the child poverty rate has increased dramatically since the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
While the pandemic has exacerbated and highlighted the economic mass insecurity of too many children and families, the issues that cause such high rates of child poverty in the United States existed long before the public health crisis. Systemic inequalities stretching back to even before the country’s founding contribute to disproportionate rates of poverty for Black, Latino and Minority children in particular. As well as joblessness, caregiving responsibilities, single parenthood, and other common life events have put children at risk of economic insecurity because U.S. policies have allowed that reality.
Child poverty is solvable. Some recommendations set forth allow us to easily correct what we have created to be wrong. We need to:
- Secure the right to basic needs for all families and children with reforms to food assistance, housing supports, education and health care programs
- Improve financial burdens through strengthened unemployment insurance, permanent paid family and medical leave, higher minimum wages, affordable child care and universal preschool, and better tax credits that cover all low-income families and unaccountable children
- Strengthen on structural reforms that addresses generational poverty and historic marginalization with policies that target the racial wealth gap and inequitable school systems
- Address the children that are not being counted within the census every 10 years