Report: Social programs keep child poverty rates from doubling

More children are living in poverty conditions in the U.S. than official numbers present, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States Report uses the Supplemental Poverty Measure, a standard first implemented by the U.S. Census in 2011 that measures the impact of important social programs like SNAP and the Earned Income Tax Credit on true poverty rates. It also accounts for rising costs and other changes that affect a family’s budget. Unlike the federal “poverty level” standard, the SPM takes geographical costs of living into account.

According to SPM measurements, without such social assistance programs, the child poverty rate would almost double — from 18 percent now to 33 percent. Not surprisingly, children of color are more likely to live in poverty than their white peers. The report found that both Latino and African-American children have a 29 percent rate based on the SPM, while white children sit at just 10 percent nationally.

A few other findings from the report include:

  • California has the highest child poverty rate, using the SPM, followed by Arizona and Nevada.
  •  States with some of the largest child populations, like Florida, New York and Texas, have among the highest child poverty rates using the SPM. Poverty rates among southeastern states are also higher than the national average.
  • The lowest rates are in the upper Midwest and northern New England.

So what do these findings mean for the children in our K-12 schools? Correlating a child’s poverty rate to success in life (and in school), The Annie E. Casey Foundation suggests the following steps:

  • More support of quality early childhood education opportunities.
  • Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit so families can keep more of their earnings.
  • More access to programs like SNAP and child care and housing subsidies.
  • Better job training and childcare support for parents.

You can read the full report here

I’ve long believed that educational assistance is the biggest step towards breaking the cycle of poverty for all children, especially minorities. When we look at our future generations, the key to eradicating poverty lies in the opportunities we provide kids in our K-12 schools, and the assistance we give their families to raise their quality of life.

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