A Call to End Child Poverty Now

America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty
and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

They have become great and rich;
they have grown fat and sleek.  . . .
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless . . .
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.

— Jeremiah 5:27–28

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of Truth with Falsehood for the good or evil side;
Some great Cause, God’s New Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and that light.
— James Russell Lowell

It is a national moral disgrace that there are 14.7 million poor children and 6.5 million extremely poor children in the United States of America – the world’s largest economy. It is also unnecessary, costly and the greatest threat to our future national, economic and military security.

The 14.7 million poor children in our nation exceeds the populations of 12 U.S. states

Combined: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming and is greater than the combined populations of the countries of Sweden and Costa Rica. Our nearly 6.5 million extremely poor children (living below half the poverty line) exceeds the combined populations of Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming and is greater than the populations of Denmark or Finland.

The Younger Children

The younger children are the poorer they are during their years of greatest brain development. Every other American baby is non-White and 1 in 2 Black babies is poor, 150 years after slavery was legally abolished.

America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parents, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith. In fact if they had been born in 33 other industrialized countries they would be less likely to be poor. Among these 35 countries, America ranks 34th in relative child poverty — ahead only of Romania whose economy is 99 percent smaller than ours.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, which, if it were an American state, would rank just above Mississippi in per capita GDP according to the Washington Post, committed to and succeeded in cutting its child poverty rate by half in 10 years. It is about values and political will. Sadly, politics too often trumps good policy and moral decency and responsibility to the next generation and the nation’s future. It is way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty. This report calls for an end to child poverty in the richest nation on earth with a 60 percent reduction immediately. It shows solutions to ending child poverty in our nation already exist. For the first time this report shows how, by expanding investments in existing policies and programs that work, we can shrink overall child poverty 60 percent, Black child poverty 72 percent, and improve economic circumstances for 97 percent of poor children at a cost of $77.2 billion a year. These policies could be pursued immediately, improving the lives and futures of millions of children and eventually saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Child Poverty

Child poverty is too expensive to continue. Every year the lost productivity and extra health and crime costs for adults who grew up poor add up to $500 billion – six times more than the $77 billion investment we propose to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. MIT Nobel Laureate economist and 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Robert Solow in his foreword to a 1994 CDF report Wasting America’s Future presciently wrote: “For many years Americans have allowed child poverty levels to remain astonishingly high…far higher than one would think a rich and ethical society would tolerate. The justification, when one is offered at all, has often been that action is expensive: ‘We have more will than wallet.’ I suspect that in fact our wallets exceed our will, but in any event this concern for the drain on our resources completely misses the other side of the equation: Inaction has its costs too…As an economist I believe that good things are worth paying for; and that even if curing children’s poverty were expensive, it would be hard to think of a better use in the world for money. If society cares about children, it should be willing to spend money on them.”