Cut Child Poverty by Half

Nancy Folbre
8 March 2019

The United Kingdom did it between 1999 and 2008. The Canadian government implemented a plan to do it in 2016. The U.S. almost did it between 1967 and 2016: cut the incidence of child poverty by half.

Right now about 13% of U.S. children live in families with incomes below the poverty line. One could quibble with this number (based on the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure) but not with empirical research showing the long-term negative effects of poverty (especially deep poverty) on children’s development. A brand-new report just published by the National Academy of Science does the numbers. And does them and does them and then does them some more. It’s a policy wonk’s dream.

Among other things, it includes simulations of the effects of alternative policy packages, which typically include some combination of child care assistance and cash transfers. One of the scenarios estimates that resulting increases in parental earnings would exceed the costs.

These exercises in “targeting science” will shape debates over family policy in the U.S. for years to come. If kids could vote, they would change the face of government in this country. If they could assign grownups some required reading (along with study guides, discussion questions and quizzes), this report might top the list.

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