November 22, 2022
November 18, 2022
Unprecedented. Historical. Unmatched. Amazing. We rarely hear adjectives like these associated with good news about child poverty, but these are just some of the words used to describe new reports of falling child poverty rates in the United States. .
The Census Bureau just released data showing that in 2021, child poverty in the United States fell to the lowest rates on record. This coincided with a Child Trends report that documented how much child poverty in the United States fell between 1993 and 2019, even before the plunge recorded during the pandemic.
Both stories shared a common denominator that the Children’s Defense Fund has repeatedly emphasized: Child poverty is preventable in our wealthy nation, and there are policy solutions that work to end it. We must build on these policy solutions, make them permanent, and work even harder to make sure they reach every child.
The Census Bureau reported that child poverty was nearly halved between 2020 and 2021 as a result of poverty programs established or expanded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including child care program extensions. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and Child Tax Credit. (CTC). The expansion of the Child Tax Credit alone has lifted almost 3 million children out of poverty in 2021, including 1 million children under the age of 6.
Many of these same programs that made a historic difference during the pandemic also played a key role in the longer decline in child poverty rates. Child Trends notes that between 1993 and 2019, the number of children covered by the Social Safety Net – which also includes Earned Income Tax Credit, Social Security, SNAP and Housing Subsidies – has more than tripled.
At the same time, they warned that while the social safety net makes a huge difference for millions of poor children, our nation has made the least progress in strengthening that safety net for children with the least of resources, including children in extreme poverty, those in an immigrant situation, families and children whose parents do not have a stable job.
It is the children who still need the most help, and these results reaffirm the importance of the expanded anti-poverty programs put in place during the pandemic and the obvious but critical observation that when more children were protected through anti-poverty programs in 2020 and 2021, child poverty has fallen even more dramatically.
This last point was reinforced by another data published last week. The Children’s Defense Fund and other organizations recently partnered with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) in a nationwide survey of low-to-moderate income parents to see how they have been affected by the expiration. extended monthly CTC payments. CLASP results again highlighted that the expanded CTC significantly reduced family hardship and hunger.
Not surprisingly, however, the survey also found that as soon as CTC payments ended, families found it more difficult to pay bills, groceries, clothes and more. essential products. We have made significant progress in reducing child poverty over the past quarter century, and improvements in the pandemic era have proven that we can immediately reach even more children and reduce child poverty. children even faster. Why don’t we keep doing it?
The drop in child poverty is great news, and the dramatic drop in the pandemic era doesn’t have to be an anomaly on the chart. We cannot let child poverty rates rise again when every tenth of a point represents thousands of children who deserve a better future. We know what works and now we know what we can do to continue to drive the child poverty rate curve down towards zero. Our nation can – and must – continue this progress and expand effective policies to end child poverty now.
Marian Wright Edelman is the Founder and Chair Emeritus of the Children’s Defense Fund.