The COVID-19 pandemic has put a harsh spotlight on the economic, social, and racial inequities in our nation.
According to a newly released report entitled Forecasting Poverty Rates During the COVID-19 Crisis by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy (CPSP) at Columbia University, poverty rates in the United States could reach its highest levels in 50 years due to COVID-19. Here’s what we know: if unemployment rates continue to skyrocket, an increase of more than 21 million individuals could live in poverty this year alone. These projections are even worse for people of color and children. According to the report, “Black individuals face an increase of 12.6 percentage points, Hispanics face an increase of 9.4 percentage points, and Asians face a 5.8 percentage-point increase in poverty rates.” Children, who we know are at a considerable disadvantage developmentally, would see their poverty rates rise by 53 percent. While this report is heartbreaking, it is not at all surprising.
So, let’s be clear about what this data really shows us. Our nation was already failing children and families living in poverty. Thirty-eight million people – including nearly 12 million children – were living in poverty in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 11 million children go to bed hungry every day. Parents struggle to pay for exorbitant child care expenses. High-quality education, including robust internet access, is out of reach for many. 1.5 million school-aged children experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year. In 2019, the Federal Reserve found that 40 percent of adults could not cover a $400 emergency. All of these inequities deeply hurt our children’s development and success for years to come.
To bounce back from this devastating pandemic, the United States must take a comprehensive, coordinated approach to prevent millions of children and families from falling into or deeper into poverty. We must ensure that our children and families can access the basics to not only survive this pandemic, but thrive as we move beyond it. It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation on earth, millions struggle every day to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and live paycheck to paycheck. And, thanks to our friends at Columbia, we know the deadly truth – millions more in our nation will struggle to cover their basic needs if our government does not act quickly and more robustly. Our nation’s children deserve to be protected and supported, not just through this crisis but in every major policy decision.
For more information about this report, you can read it here.