Experts have put together two plans to cut child poverty in the U.S. in half within 10 years.
The plans from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) combine work incentives with other programs that support families.
“Capable and healthy adults are the foundation of any well-functioning society, but because millions of American children are in families living below the poverty line, this future is not as secure as it could be,” Greg Duncan, Ph.D., chair of the authoring committee, said in a news release.
In 2015, an estimated 9.6 million children lived below the poverty line, which was about $26,000 for a family of four. About 2.1 million children lived in “deep poverty,” below half the poverty line. That year, Congress directed the NASEM to conduct a nonpartisan, evidence-based study on reducing child poverty by half.
Experts in economics, social science, policy, medicine and more drafted the 600-page report, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, http://bit.ly/NASEMPoverty, which notes the many links between poverty and maltreatment, physical and mental health problems, lower educational and employment gains and increased likelihood of criminal behavior. In addition, they wrote that “income poverty itself causes negative child outcomes.”
“It’s very toxic to children and it changes their whole life trajectory,” said AAP Past President Benard P. Dreyer, M.D., FAAP (2016-’17), a member of the committee.
The group used a microsimulation model to study the impacts of numerous programs and policies and aimed to incentivize people to continue working while getting support. They ultimately crafted two packages that would meet the goal of reducing poverty by 50% in a decade.
The first would expand two work-oriented programs — the earned income tax credit and the child dependent care tax credit — as well as two support programs — the housing voucher program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The second would include three work-oriented programs — expanding the earned income tax credit and child dependent care tax credit and increasing the minimum wage. Additional support policies would include a new monthly child allowance that would replace the child tax credit. The package also calls for lifting restrictions on legal immigrants obtaining benefits and provides child support assurance if a non-custodial parent isn’t providing support.
While the packages would cost $90.7 billion and $108.8 billion a year, respectively, Dr. Dreyer said it’s far less than what child poverty costs the U.S. — an estimated $800 billion to $1.1 trillion a year in reduced adult productivity and increased crime and health expenditures. In addition, the programs would add 400,000 to 600,000 new workers.
The group will brief Congress on the report March 14, and Dr. Dreyer plans to continue advocating for it alongside fellow pediatricians.
Addressing poverty is a top priority for the Academy, appearing in its Agenda for Children. In addition, the AAP policy Poverty and Child Health in the United States calls for expanding some of the same programs as the new report.
“Substantial reductions in U.S. child poverty are an attainable goal,” Dr. Dreyer said. “We can do this.”