Friday, May 09, 2008

November's Child

By Carol Gee

The compassionate among us take in the TV images coming from Burma (Michael's preferred word for Myanmar) and feel saddened by the children, in particular. Compassion must be shared, however, with the children in our own hemisphere who sometimes have it very rough. Today's post presents a few of the facts of childhood poverty in the U.S and Canada, currently and in the fairly near past.

Child Poverty in United States -- (November 2007 Report) "Who are America's Poor Children?" To quote NCCP:

. . . How many children in America are officially poor? Rates of official child poverty vary tremendously across the states.

Child poverty rates across the states, 2006:

* Nationwide, 17% of children live in families that are officially considered poor (13 million children).

* Across the states, child poverty rates range from 6% in New Hampshire to 29% in Mississippi.

Nearly 13 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $20,650 a year for a family of four. The number of children living in poverty increased by 11 percent between 2000 and 2006. There are 1.2 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000.

Not only are these numbers troubling, the official poverty measure tells only part of the story—it is widely viewed as a flawed metric of economic hardship (see box). Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet. Children living in families with incomes below this level—for 2006, about $41,000 for a family of four—are referred to as low income. Thirty-nine percent of the nation’s children—more than 28 million in 2006—live in low-income families.

Child poverty in Canada -- (November 26, 2007): "Child poverty rates unchanged in nearly 2 decades: report." To quote CBC News:

The rate of child poverty in Canada is the same as it was in 1989, despite numerous attempts by the federal government to tackle the issue, an advocacy group reported Monday.

. . . The report says that, in 1989, the House of Commons unanimously voted to end child poverty. Eighteen years later, despite a 50 per cent increase in the size of the economy, the child poverty rate remains unchanged at 11.7 per cent, according to the report.

One in eight children in Canada — about 788,000 — live in poverty when income is measured after taxes, the report says, citing Statistics Canada data. When income was measured before taxes, the number rose to one in six children.

Child Poverty in United States -- Over Time: (November 1995 Report). To quote the National Research Council, Board on Children and Families:

  • Poverty among U.S. children reached its highest level in 30 years in 1993. Cansus data for 1994 shows that 15.7 million children, or 22.7 percent, were classified as poor.

  • Children in families continuously on welfare from 1986 to 1990 were 1.6 times more likely to have significant behavioral problems than those never on welfare or poor. Children in families that left the welfare system but remained poor also were likely to have behavioral problems.

  • Home environments of children whose families stopped receiving welfare but remained poor did not differ significantly from those families still on welfare.

  • Inflexible hours at child care centers frequently caused problems for working parents with low incomes, nonstandard working hours or more than one job.

The fallout from the current administration's economic and social policies dusts on the heads of November's Children as well as their parents and grandparents. And this time the debris does not come from a cyclone, but from the blind eyes of greedy or corrupt officials.

From an earlier post I conclude with this beloved nursery rhyme --

Monday's Child

Author: Unknown

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child must work for a living,
But the child that's born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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