One in Five American Children In Poverty: How did we get here?

Children in poverty/ hedge fund tax break

The Census Bureau last week released its annual report on poverty in America.

About one in six American families live in poverty. But poverty doesn’t hit all Americans equally. Among white Americans, about one in ten live in poverty, but among Black Americans, it’s more than one in four. It’s nearly one in four among Hispanics.

And among children of any race, it’s one in five.

These statistics have remained essentially unchanged for the last four years, even as America officially was in recovery from the recession.

What can we do?

We can stop acting as if growing inequality is an accident over which we have no control. Here are a few of the ways that federal tax and budget policy contribute to economic inequality:

  • Budget pressures during the last few years gave us sequestration, resulting in harmful domestic spending reductions that responded more to political than to economic realities: in real dollars, 2015 domestic spending under the budget caps represents a 16 percent cut from 2010.
  • Welfare reform and similar policy changes have resulted in decreasing aid to the poor. Over the last three and a half decades, cash aid to the poor has declined by almost half as a share of low income households’ incomes.
  • Our tax system rewards corporations and the wealthiest Americans with billions in tax breaks. Meanwhile, the overall share of federal taxes has shifted over time, relying less on the progressive income and estate taxes that fall more heavily on the wealthy, and more on the regressive payroll and excise taxes that hit lower income Americans harder.

For more on the Census poverty release, check out the Coalition on Human Needs’ great report (and spiffy graphics by National Priorities Project), or look out for details on how to attend our webinar next week, Thursday, October 1 at 2pm.