This article was written by Dave Brady, Professor of Public Policy at UC Riverside & Director of the Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty at UC Riverside
"We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth" is one of Senator Bernie Sanders' regular stump speech lines.
For as long as we've had credible social science on the topic, scholars have known that the U.S. has had an unusually high rate of child poverty. The world's leading source on child poverty, the Luxembourg Income Study or LIS, shows that the U.S. child poverty rate has been high for decades. At least since the mid-1980s, more than one in five American children have been in poverty.
These high rates of child poverty are troubling because child poverty has clear negative consequences. Scholars have convincingly linked child poverty with greater mortality, poor health, undermined educational attainment and lower adult income. Children who grow up poor are more likely to be victims of crime, to get sick, to experience family instability, and to suffer from a variety of disadvantages.
Is Sanders correct that the U.S. has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country?. Scholars often compare the U.S. to high income countries that have been democratic since 1980, and with populations over a million. Within this group of what Hal Wilensky called " rich democracies", the U.S. has consistently had one of the highest child poverty rates. Another country may pass the U.S. occasionally. For instance, child poverty has skyrocketed in Spain from 16 percent in 2000 to over 23 percent in 2013. And in recent decades, Canada, Greece, Ireland, and the United Kingdom all had at least one year in which more than 15 percentage of their children were poor. But the U.S. consistently has among the highest child poverty rates in the rich democracies.
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(Excerpts taken from The Washington Post)