CHILD POVERTY IN AMERICA

By Vincent Lyn

Many people refuse to admit that mass poverty exists in America. That would reflect poorly on their capitalist beliefs. But if the skeptics would look at the half of America they don’t care to see, the stark display of destitution might shock them. At least until they invent an excuse to remove it all from their minds. The U.S. poverty rate according to a Bloomberg Report in January 2021, the U.S. has suffered the sharpest rise in poverty rate in more than 50 Years.

It is a national moral disgrace that children remain the poorest age group in the United States of America — one of the richest countries in the world. It is also unnecessary, costly and the greatest threat to the nation’s future national, economic and military security. About 1 in 6 children — more than 15 million in total are poor in the United States. Almost half of these children live in extreme poverty at less than half the poverty level. Nearly 3 in 4 poor children (71%), were children of color. The youngest children were most likely to be poor, with nearly 1 in 6 children under 5 living in poverty during the years of rapid brain development.

Child poverty hurts children and our nation’s future. It creates gaps in cognitive skills for very young children, puts children at greater risk of hunger and homelessness, jeopardizes their health and ability to learn and fuels the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

The Health Risks of Childhood Poverty

Most are unaware of just how greatly low-income households & extreme poverty can influence child health and cognitive child development. However, poverty does indeed impact growth from early childhood, starting with brain development and other body systems. Poverty itself can negatively affect how the body and mind develop, and economic hardship can actually alter the fundamental structure of the child’s brain. Children who directly or indirectly experience risk factors associated with poverty have higher odds of experiencing poor health problems as adults such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, obesity, certain cancers, and even a shorter life expectancy.

In addition to brain development and health risks associated with holding low-socioeconomic status, a child’s mental health is at risk of being greatly affected as well. Low-income parents and children are more likely to be affected by challenges with mental health and mental illness. These mental health problems often impair overall academic achievement and the ability of children to succeed in school. The effects of poverty can place these children at a higher risk of involvement with child welfare and juvenile justice agencies.

Growing Up in Impoverished Neighborhoods

Unfortunately, children who are poor are more likely to be raised in impoverished neighborhoods. These types of neighborhoods that have concentrated poverty levels are often associated with difficulties in academics, behavioral and social issues, and worsening health. Additionally, these children are more likely to live in neighborhoods where they are exposed to environmental risk factors. These socioeconomic risk factors may include malnutrition, pollution, food insecurity, housing instability, economic hardship, led exposure, violence, and crime.

In regards to violence, even indirect exposure (such as witnessing a violent act or simply knowing of its occurrence) has shown to leave adverse developmental outcomes. As a result of family income inequality, poor children are also disproportionately more likely to attend schools in districts with fewer resources, less funding from local tax dollars, less parental involvement due to longer, lower wage working hours, facilities that are inadequate, and with school leadership that has a much higher turnover.

The Cycle of Poverty

You may have heard the term, “The Cycle of Poverty.” The cycle of intergenerational poverty refers to the idea that poor parents raise their children in poverty, who are then more likely to become poor parents themselves. It is important to keep in mind that children are more vulnerable to negative consequences of poverty, than adults. While various types of risk factors exist for impoverished households (such as including single parent or single income households and low parental education), the best protection against further increasing the child poverty rate is access to the labor market, quality childcare, and adequate employment and education for parents.

In fact, according to Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, it is best and more useful to intervene right at the start of development, rather than to try to fix things later. In other words, if we provide the right tools for parents and poor families in need, their children will have greater chances to get out of poverty and become successful as adults. Children who live in poverty are affected by one or more risk factors that have been linked to academic failure and poor health, a perfect combination for remaining in the cycle of poverty. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, between three and 16 percent of children are affected by poverty in combination with another risk factor. An example of a risk factor may include single parent households or parents with no or low education (2 million). These alarming numbers will continue to rise if no adequate intervention is used.

Vincent Lyn

CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children

Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization

Economic & Social Council at United Nations

Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency

Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts

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Vincent Lyn

CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)