CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Ending child poverty is within our reach and the path forward is clear. By making work pay, supporting employment for those who can work and expanding safety net supports to ensure children’s basic needs are met, our nation can reduce child poverty at least 57 percent and lift 5.5 million children out of poverty right now. This down payment on ending child poverty would cost federal and state governments $52.3 billion—less than 3 percent of the nearly $1.9 trillion spent on tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations.
Our wealthy and powerful nation must give all children the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Ending child poverty is not only right, it is smart and cost-effective. Protecting children against the lifelong consequences of poverty will benefit all of us. It will improve children’s life outcomes and reduce child poverty in future generations. It will build a stronger economy, healthier workforce and larger tax base. And it will reduce the nearly $700 billion our nation loses each year because of child poverty.
Most importantly, lifting millions of children out of poverty now would give them the opportunity to thrive. They could focus on homework instead of working to supplement their parents’ income. They’d no longer have to go without the food they need to be healthy and able to learn. They wouldn’t have to worry about having a stable place to live or spend their nights getting tucked into car seats or homeless shelters. Providing jobs and making work pay more would mean parents can do what they most want to do: earn enough to care and provide for their children.
Let’s act now to end child poverty in America. Congress can begin by enacting the following federal policy improvements to lift 5.5 million children out of poverty and make a substantial down payment on ending child poverty for all children:
- Create transitional jobs for unemployed and underemployed individuals ages 16-64 in families with children.
- Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 by 2024.
- Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income families with children.
- Make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable with additional benefits for families with young children.
- Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty with no co-pays.
- Make the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
- Determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits based on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children and increase benefits by 31 percent.
- Make housing vouchers available to all households with children below 150 percent of poverty for whom fair market rent exceeds 50 percent of their income.
- Require child support to be fully passed-through to families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), fully disregarded for TANF benefits and partially disregarded for SNAP benefits.
Congress isn’t the only place where action is needed. Many of these policies and programs have state and local counterparts that can progress without federal action (see Appendix 1 for more information). States, counties, cities and towns can set an example for our entire nation. California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington, DC are already on track to raise the minimum wage to $15.00. In 2015 California passed a state Earned Income Tax Credit and continues to expand it. Mississippi and Louisiana have seen pushes for the creation of state level Earned Income Tax Credits.
It is up to all of us—parents, grandparents, teachers, students, faith leaders and advocates—to create a call to end child poverty so widespread and resonant it cannot be ignored. There is no excuse for inaction. Every community and individual concerned about our children’s future must stand up and call for steps to end child poverty now.
Children only have one childhood, and for millions of them, it is right now. Helping more of today’s children escape poverty is an urgent moral imperative, and as this report shows, it is an achievable one. Children facing hunger, homelessness and hopelessness cannot wait another decade for our nation to help them. We can and must get started immediately.
Join the Movement to End Child Poverty Now
- Share this report. We already know how to reduce child poverty and must invest more in what works.
- Work with others in your community to engage poor families and children and identify their needs. Document and uplift efforts underway to address child poverty.
- Send letters to Congress highlighting the need to end child poverty now, sharing stories and encouraging them to consider the policy improvements outlined in this report.
- Urge leaders to commit to ending child poverty as 2019 and 2020 campaigns get underway. There should be nothing partisan about ending human and economic harms to our children and our nation.
- Attend town halls or community meetings and ask local leaders what steps they are taking to end child poverty.
- Encourage local faith institutions to work together to educate and agitate about ending child poverty.
- Reach children in poverty by sponsoring or volunteering at a CDF Freedom Schools site in your community. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you, your employer or your congregation can establish one.
- Visit staging.childrensdefense.org/ending-child-poverty-now and join the movement to end child poverty now.