By Mark Kobzik
The Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH recently published a study on child poverty in the U.S. A life of poverty in America means trying to live on $24,008 per year for a family of two adults and two children. More than one in five children in the U.S. live in poverty and although this number has slightly dipped in the past years, more than 400,000 children are poor. African American children are three times as likely to live in poverty and Hispanic children are 6% more likely.
Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts an American community survey in which they ask one percent of Americans basic demographic, economic, and housing questions.
Andrew Schaefer, who is a vulnerable families research associate at the Carsey School of Public Policy and co-writer of this year’s brief explained, “This year we focused specifically on racial-ethnic differences in child poverty by age category, region of the country, and place type.”
When asked about why African American children are still more disadvantaged than whites, Schaefer said he would “be quick to emphasize that these two groups have vastly different historical experiences in the United States, including a legacy of slavery that continues to impact the life chances of black families and individuals in the United States, different immigration patterns of both groups, and overt and institutional discrimination patterns that affect the economic and social outcomes of Hispanic, black, and individuals of various other minority groups.”
Schaefer also said that what surprised and shocked him most was, “the extent to which black children across the United States live in poor families. For example, while 38.4 percent of black children in all places live in poor families, more than half (51.1 percent) of black children in rural places are poor.”
As to why they published the brief, Shaefer replied, “One major goal of this report is to help inform the public, politicians, and community leaders in charge of making policy decisions that could improve the economic well-being of children and their families. It is imperative to keep state and federal policies that ameliorate child poverty on the radar, as extensive research documents the long-term negative consequences of growing up poor.”
The recession followed the Wall Street stock market crash of 2008, millions of Americans lost their jobs and the economic future remained highly uncertain. Even New Hampshire, a state that has a child poverty rate 8.7% lower than the national average, was affected by the recession as poverty did go up during the past several years. In subsequent years in the U.S., childhood poverty continued to increase.
As Jessica Carson, a vulnerable families research scientist at the Carsey School of Public Policy said, “It has not been easy going for families since the great recession. It was only this past year that families began to see improvement, but racial minorities continue to be at a disadvantage.”
The brief ended by saying, “Finally, our work shows that, in general, the youngest children tend to be the most disadvantaged. This highlights a critical need for early education programs and suggests that dual-generation approaches to poverty reduction—those that work with both poor parents and their children—may be particularly fruitful.”