The UNICEF report is far from the first to highlight the growing rate of childhood poverty within the U.S. The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that in 2010, the most recent statistics available, 15 million U.S. children were living in families with incomes below the federal poverty level of $22,050 a year for a family of four.
Although children only compose 24 percent of the population, the organization reports they comprise nearly 34 percent of all people living in poverty. The proportion of children in poverty has been on the rise. For instance, the percentage of children living in low-income families (both poor and near poor) increased from 40 percent to 44 percent between 2005 and 2010, including an 11 percent increase among low-income children and a 17 percent rise among those living below the federal poverty rate.
In November, the U.S. Census reported that children who live in poverty during their developmental years are more likely than their peers to have cognitive and behavioral difficulties, are less likely to complete a high school education, and statistically will experience more years of unemployment as an adult.
Another interesting observation:
Interestingly, the report concluded that nations with higher rates of economic development and per capita income did not necessarily have lower rates of childhood poverty and deprivation (the latter defined as when children are lacking two or more of a list of 14 basic items, such as three meals a day, educational books at home, an Internet connection, etc.). For instance, the report found that children living in Denmark and Sweden are less likely to live in relative poverty than those in Belgium and or Germany, even though all four countries have roughly similar levels of economic development and per capita income.
“The best performers show it is possible to address poverty within the current fiscal space. On the flip side, failure to protect children from today’s economic crisis is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make,” Alexander said.
This doesn’t bode well for our future. It’s bad enough we have a lost generation of kids with poorer job and education prospects, but now a good chunk of them will have the added hurdle of malnutrition and the social and psychological problems child poverty brings.