In the current issue of Demography, researchers report that U.S. child poverty rates declined in the 1990s by a bit more than 7 percent (“Child Poverty and Changes in Child Poverty“). Similar improvements occurred in the United Kingdom.
But here’s the bad news: While the UK’s decline was thanks to government programs, the US’s decline was due to economic expansion. In other words, the US economy did well in the 1990s, so child poverty declined. In fact, when researchers looked more closely, they found that US government support for children in poverty had actually declined. Without economic growth, there would have been more, not less, child poverty.
So where does that leave us today? Jobs are disappearing and the economy is worsening by the minute. In the absence of government programs, children will do worse in this downturn, too. Will we see some of that “equity injection” for children’s well being?
For the impact of the economic downturn on families, take a look at Stephanie Coontz and Valerie Adrian’s briefing report to the Council on Contemporary Families, “Family Stress=Economic Woes.” Warning: it’s depressing.