Child Poverty


For Immediate Release
December 23, 2008


For More Information Contact:
Ed Shelleby
(202) 662-3602


Washington, D.C. – Today the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) released The State of America’s Children 2008®report, a statistical compendium of key child data showing epidemic numbers of children at risk: the number of poor children has increased nearly 500,000 to 13.3 million, with 5.8 million of them living in extreme poverty, and nearly 9 million children lack health coverage―with both numbers likely to increase during the recession.  The number of children and teens killed by firearms also increased after years of decline.

“It is a national disgrace that the richest nation on earth lets every sixth child live in poverty,” CDF President Marian Wright Edelman said. “Our poor children exceed the population of all ages in the state of Illinois. The number of uninsured children exceeds the population of the country of Switzerland.  We continue this neglectful waste of our precious human capital at our collective peril. We can and must do better!

“Investing in our children―the seed corn of our nation’s future―is key to our nation’s economic recovery and competitiveness in the global economy. And we do not have a minute to waste as a child drops out of school every 11 seconds of the school day; is born into poverty every 33 seconds; is abused or neglected every 35 seconds; is born without health coverage every 39 seconds; and is killed by guns every three hours. No external enemy poses such a grave threat to our children’s and nation’s security as these facts,” stated Mrs. Edelman.

According to the CDF report, children in America lag behind almost all industrialized nations on key child indicators. The United States has the unwanted distinction of being the worst among industrialized nations in relative child poverty, in the gap between rich and poor, in teen birth rates, and in child gun violence, and first in the number of incarcerated persons.

“A cradle to prison pipeline crisis is fueling a massive and costly prison system that is becoming the new American apartheid.  It is draining tens of billions of dollars from crucial health and education investments all children need to get into a pipeline to college and productive work.  Poverty and continuing racial disparities in all child serving systems are sentencing countless children to dead-end lives. That a Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy has a 1 in 6 chance is a personal tragedy and national catastrophe. We can and must change these horrifying outcomes. If we can bail out Wall Street bankers who have brought our economy to its knees, we can rescue our children from hopelessness, despair, sickness, illiteracy and preventable poverty,” Mrs. Edelman said.

The State of America’s Children 2008 compiles the most recent and reliable national and state-by-state data on poverty, health, child welfare, youth at risk, early childhood development, education, nutrition and housing.  Highlights of the report are attached.  The full report is available at

The Children’s Defense Fund is a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education, and a moral and spiritual foundation. Supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations, CDF advocates nationwide on behalf of children to ensure children are always a priority.

The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.