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The Impact of US Child Poverty

By Taylor Marvin

Last week Felix Salmon made what I think is a very perceptive point about the long-term costs of American distaste for public social spending:

“Two of the biggest and most daunting long-term problems facing the US economy are (1) the fact that Americans aren’t as well educated as their counterparts elsewhere in the world; and (2) the fast-growing obesity epidemic.

Both of these problems are caused, in large part, by America’s very high levels of child poverty.

So if you fix the child-poverty problem, you’ve made a serious dent in both the education problem and the obesity problem.

What’s more, the child-poverty problem really is one of those problems which can be fixed quite easily just by throwing money at it. Give enough money to children in poverty, and they’re not poor any more. Problem solved — at least to a first approximation.”

The United States federal government spends an enormous amount of money, primarily on entitlements for the elderly and defense spending. While a large portion of this spending is arguably justified, it’s also remembering that the long-term positive returns on the military budget and excessive entitlement spending are much less than comparatively trivial programs to reduce child poverty. While US government spending is likely unsustainable at our current revenue level, smarter appropriation of relatively minor amounts of federal funds could have huge long-term benefits.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Chris C. #

    Throw money at the kids? How? Will the kids be the ones who benefit? Or will it be the “guardians” who misuse it? And what of the moral hazard issue?

    It’d be great if solving child poverty was as simple as throwing money at it. But as we’ve seen with public education, higher rates of spending don’t usually line up with actual improvements.

    Not sure if it’d work any better, but a better solution might be to focus on improving the use of contraceptives in populations with high single mother rates. Cheaper and more targeted, although potentially more controversial.

    October 11, 2011
  2. Lit3Bolt #

    Want to solve child poverty? End the drug war and its black market. Stop subsidizing corn sugar and Mcnuggets. Pay a decent minimum wage. Enforce gun laws. Raise teacher salaries. Promote public health and vaccinations. Make parents comply with child nutritional guidelines and healthcare rules. Promote libraries and increase their funding. Encourage contraceptives (yes, this helps). De-emphasize prayer and religion. Encourage foster care. Combat homelessness.

    It shocks people to be reminded of this, but there are still Americans who are still too poor to shop at Wal-Mart.

    October 17, 2011
  3. Well that would be fine except the right wing is busy defunding Planned Parenthood. The cold hearted and mean spirited ethic of the Republican party, will surely assist in increasing poverty and will surely damage future prospects for this nation.

    October 17, 2011
  4. The people who work for the government are too occupied with how rich they are getting, and their free health care and all the other freebies the get to worry about the poor people. It is a shame that the minimum wage in this country does not break $8 an hour. How do they expect people to live and feed their children?

    November 10, 2011

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