To Grow the Economy, We Must Pay Attention to Child Poverty
Sep 13, 2011
Every day we hear about another economic indicator, another predictor about whether the economy is up or down, in recovery or in decline. But we don't hear about a more pressing indicator of our national health: the poverty status of our children. We don't see the faces of the many children who face tougher odds on the path to adulthood because more and more of them are growing up poor.
For the fourth year in a row, child poverty is up. One in five children--including one in four young children under age 6--lived in a family earning just $60 a day. For the fourth year in a row, well-meaning politicians and thought leaders will wring their hands and bemoan the fact that children, the future of the United States, are living in substandard housing, attending failing schools, lacking books in their homes and communities, and missing out on quality early childhood experiences.
This is cause for more than passive outrage. It calls for action because if child poverty is trending up today, in a few years, other indicators will trend up as well. More children in poverty today means more teen pregnancies, more high school dropouts and more juvenile offenders tomorrow. It also means we will have more young people desperately trying to enter the workforce without college degrees or even a high school diploma.
On Friday, the Dow lost more than 300 points. In August, job creation was static. Yesterday, more than 3,000 babies were born in poverty. These are equally important and necessary economic indicators. We cannot afford to cast child poverty into a corner of public discourse tomorrow, or next week when the next big story comes out. We must pursue remedies to the very real problem of one of every four babies born going home to a family without adequate food, without a regular income and without the means to ensure that newborn's continued healthy development. We don't have time to return to politics as usual and debate whether the bang for the buck is "big enough" to invest in poverty alleviation and in our children.