(George Curry Media) – The United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, according to the Office of Research at the United Nations Children’s Fund. Of the 35 wealthy countries studied by UNICEF, only Romania has a child poverty rate higher than the 23 percent in the U.S.
Black children are more likely to live in poverty than children of any other race. The poverty rate among Black children is 38.2 percent, more than twice as high as the rate among Whites. The poverty rate for Hispanic children is 32.3 percent.
The longer a child lives in poverty, the tougher it can be for them to climb out later in life. According to an analysis by Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty, 45 percent of people who spent at least half of their childhood in poverty were poor at age 35. Among those who spent less than half of their childhood in poverty, just 8 percent were poor at age 35.
An estimated 1 in 45 children – or 1.6 million – were homeless in America each year between 2006 and 2010. Approximately 40 percent of those homeless children, or 640,000, were five or younger. Homeless children experience food insecurity, with one-third reporting that they skip meals; are more than twice as likely as middle-class children to have moderate to severe acute and chronic health problems; and are twice as likely as other children to repeat a grade in school, to be expelled or suspended, or to drop out of high school.
Living in areas with a high poverty rate is associated with a learning loss equivalent to a full year of school among Black children and high school graduation rates that are as much as 20 percentage points lower than those in more-advantaged communities.
In 2010, 1 in 9 children – 16 million in total – lived in households struggling to afford the food they needed to ensure their children would not go to sleep or to school hungry. One out of 77 children went without enough food at least once.
Twenty-two percent of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. Thirty-two percent of students who spent more than half of their childhoods in poverty do not graduate.
Compared to more affluent children, children on Medicaid may be less likely to live in neighborhoods where they can play and exercise safely outdoors, and their caretakers are less likely to have access to supermarkets selling fresh, healthy foods.
A 2012 Annie E. Casey Foundation study examined the relationship among family income, high school completion and third-grade reading on a national level:
• About 16 percent of children who could not read proficiently by the end of the third grade do not graduate from high school on time – this is four times greater than the rate for proficient readers.
• This percentage rises to 26 percent for children who have been poor for at least a year of their lives and who could not read proficiently by the end of the third grade.
• This statistic climbs to 35 percent for children who are poor, who live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, and who could not read proficiently by the end of the third grade.
Without high-quality early childhood intervention, an at-risk child is: 25 percent more likely to drop out of school; 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent; 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education; 60 percent more likely never to attend college; 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime; and 30 percent of poor children score very low on early reading skills, compared to only 7 percent of children from moderate- or high-income families.
While we get ready to get in the “holiday” spirit … remember the children.
When it comes to educating children, and them growing into healthy and productive adults, poverty matters.
DISCLAIMER: The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.