by Joshua Levkowitz, a Fall 2011 intern
In my short time in Washington, D.C., I’ve heard a lot of people discuss the need for political will to address the nation’s problems. I was never entirely certain what that entailed, but it sure sounded legitimate to me. But with the release of new census poverty data, I’m beginning to better understand what people are talking about.
The data released last week show that by 2010 more than one in five children nationally lived in poverty, which the Census Bureau defines as a household income of $22,113 for a family of four. Child poverty rose in 42 states between 2007 and 2010. For African-American children, the poverty rate is nearly 40 percent as compared to the poverty rate among White children, which was 12.4 percent.
This data suggests that the situation for our nation’s poor children looks to only get more dire in the future. According to Erica Williams of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
“We know that poverty diminishes children’s success in school, and more recent evidence confirms that it can even dampen their earnings as adults. The rising share of children growing up in poverty undermines one of the key ingredients to a strong economy and shared prosperity: our human capital.”
You can see CBPP’s full analysis here.
A number of advocates have identified ways to reverse the disturbing trends that the data show. For example, a new report by First Focus discusses the factors that contribute to the declining living standards of low-income household with children today, as well as the steps that can be taken to reverse this decline and create a pathway to the middle class for these families and their children. The report was released on September 21st at the event Living on the Edge: America’s Low Earning Families featuring Representative Rose Delauro, D. Conn.
The report’s author, Sophia Parker, explores the question of why working families are having such trouble today and the subsequent implications for children. According to Parker, in today’s climate, “low paid work is as significant as unemployment in explaining child poverty.” First Focus’ recommendations for addressing child poverty include increasing the minimum wage, improving family tax credits, and providing sick days.
No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, you have to be affected by this data. Groups like First Focus, and the Half in Ten campaign have identified successful policy solutions to decrease poverty in the United States. If the focus does not change and these squeezed working-class families do not receive economic security, then the only certainty will be that today’s children will face a dark future.
Will legislators have the political will to do something about it?