The annual release of the US Census poverty data is the one day you can be sure the mainstream media will turn their attention to poverty. This year was no exception when Poverty Day arrived last Tuesday. Amidst the frenzy of coverage of the new data, here are five things you might have missed:
1) A Crisis for Children of Color Under Age 5
Melissa Boteach, director of Half in Ten, a campaign to cut poverty in half in ten years, notes “crisis levels of poverty” for children of color under age 5, including more than 42 percent of African-American children and 37 percent of Latino children living below the poverty line. The Children’s Defense Fund also highlighted disturbing statistics across the nation regarding poverty levels of children of color under age 6.
Boteach points out that toxic stress associated with persistent poverty affects brain development in children, and leads to adverse outcomes in education, health and worker productivity when those children reach adulthood. We also know that modest investments in young children can offset some of those negative effects, but we currently are moving in the opposite direction.
Boteach references a new report from First Focus—a bipartisan organization that advocates for investments in children and families—which finds that “in 2013 alone, sequestration will cut $4.2 billion of funding for children concentrated in the areas of education, early learning, and housing, and Congress is considering a budget plan that would lock in or deepen these cuts for next year.” The report also finds that federal spending on children decreased last year by $28 billion, or 7 percent—the largest reduction since the early 1980s. Early education and childcare saw a particularly deep cut of 12 percent, and housing was cut by 6 percent.
“These data could not be timelier,” writes Boteach. “They show structural threats to our economic competitiveness owing to high rates of poverty among young children of color—who would be badly hurt by Congress locking in or deepening the sequester cuts.”
2) We Could End Child Poverty
Austin Nichols, senior research associate at Urban Institute, writes that a monthly benefit for every child is “now common across developed countries, with amounts of about $140 a month in the UK, $190 in Ireland, $130 in Japan, $160 in Sweden and $250 in Germany.” He suggests that a monthly benefit of $400 for every child in the US would cut child poverty by more than half.