Rachel Black and Reid Cramer recently penned a commentary on the rising costs of ignoring child poverty and what to do about it.
We knew the poverty rate was going up as a result of the recession. But the reality that the poverty rate for children exceeds 20% should be chilling. This is not just an indicator of how the economy is doing; rather, it’s a forecaster of things to come. That’s because children born into poverty often grow up and stay poor.
Policymakers should not allow concerns over the deficit to justify inaction. Given the long-run costs, this is a false choice. In the short-term there is a case for allocating more resources to targeted programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits. Unemployment Insurance alone, supported by the Recovery Act, helped kept over 3 million people out of poverty last year. These provisions must be extended further to keep households from falling further behind.
In the long-term, we need to implement a strategy designed to prevent poverty from passing from one generation to the next. We know families rely on income to provide for their daily needs, but helping children move forward in their lives is a long term project. In the future we should combine social insurance policies with ones that promote savings and asset building. This will give parents access to a range of resources they can use to invest in their children’s future. We simply can’t allow poverty to become a default that’s set at birth.