Children Living in Poverty An American Tragedy

by Michael London | 03/16/2021 1:49 PM
Children Living in Poverty An American Tragedy

Children living in poverty in the United States face unique challenges, including preventable health problems, exposure to violence and narcotics, and a lack of access to quality education.


President Biden signed landmark anti-poverty legislation into law last week as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus program.  Unemployment compensation, cash grants, tax credit expansions, vaccination distribution funds, and state and local government relief are among other measures contained in the law.

Senate Democrats are already calling for the American Rescue Plan’s interim clauses to become permanent.

Key Fact

  • Poverty among children is currently, 18% of all children in the United States, or about 13 million children, live in poverty.
  • These children make up almost one-third of all people living in poverty in this country. When a child lives in a household where the total annual earnings of all parents fall below a federally defined income level, he or she is considered poor.
  • The United States regularly ranks among the worst in child poverty rates among the 37 countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, including Denmark, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
  • More than 4 in 10 children live in a household struggling to meet basic expenses.
  • Between 7 million and 11 million children live in households in which they are unable to eat enough because of the household income.

Senate Republicans attacked the bill, which passed without a single Republican vote through the majority-led budget reconciliation process. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, called the over-all proposal “haphazard” and “less stringent” than the five relief bills passed last year.

Senator Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado deserves much credit for expanding the federal child tax credit. Sen Bennet has advocated since 2017, which is groundbreaking in the way it provides a guaranteed income for families. While the pandemic has intensified and exposed the economic vulnerability of so many children and communities, the problems that contribute to the country's high rates of child poverty persisted well before the public health crisis.

The law provides most families with a $3,600 tax credit for each child under six years of age and a $3,000 tax credit for children aged six to seventeen.

The New York Times’ Jason DeParle wrote, “Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children, akin to children’s allowances that are common in other rich countries.”

According to Columbia University researchers, the legislation has the potential to cut child poverty in half. This is exceptional news since only last year Columbia University published their monthly poverty report showing the poverty rate for children increased from 15% to 16.7% from February to September 2020.


The signed COVID stimulus law rule only lasts a year in its present form.  Before the stimulus bill was signed into law, some Democrats advocated for the incentive to be extended indefinitely.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised on MSNBC on Sunday, “I’ll do whatever I can to make that lasting.”

“That is one of the most important things we will do,” he said. If we make them permanent, we will transform America.”

The stimulus plan further extends the federal nutrition program for low-income mothers and girls, growing monthly fruit and vegetable coupons from $9 to $11 for both men and women.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked for the rises to be continued indefinitely at a news conference on Sunday.

Gillibrand previously called to permanently extend another provision, which expands sick leave benefits for workers. “One of my goals is to make paid leave permanent,” she told Yahoo Finance. “We are still the only industrialized country in the world without access to paid leave, and most workers do not have access.”


           Growing Up Poor In America (full film) | FRONTLINE




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