TheEffects of Child Poverty
Child poverty is a very sensitive issue politically, socially, andeconomically. Although the ed States is a middle-income countrywith a median household income of $51,759 in 2012, the country stillhas a significant portion of the population living in poverty, 15.1percent (46.2 million) as of 2010. A good number of this populationcomprises of children living in underprivileged families. Ideally, ahousehold of four is living in poverty if the total earnings fallbelow $22,050 annually. While many Americas are in hot pursuit of theAmerican dream, there are others who are only trying to put food onthe table and meet the basic needs. The fact that children aredependent on others makes them very vulnerable to poverty. Povertyamong children has been linked to some adverse social, physical, andbehavioral outcomes. The paper looks at the prevalence of childhoodpoverty in America and its effects on these innocent individuals andthe larger society with the intention of using such knowledge toinform policymakers.
First and foremost,it is important to understand the prevalence of child poverty in theUS. Ideally, the figures have been changing with economicfluctuations. During the 2008 financial crisis, the resultantunemployment levels rendered many adults jobless leading to anincrease in household and child poverty. Social and demographicfactors such as ethnicity, family structure, neighborhood, educationlevels of parents, etc. influence the likelihood and prevalence ofchildhood poverty. Both federal and state governments have initiateda broad range of programs designed to fight childhood poverty. Someof these programs address the causes while others seek to address thesymptoms. Besides, private and nonprofit organizations have tried toaddress the issue. For instance, DC Central Kitchen initiated aprogram that pays better wages to allow parents to provide better fortheir children. Such programs target various neighborhoods that arepredominantly associated with low-income earners. Despite suchefforts, child poverty persists, and it cannot be wished away butrather tackled strategically to avoid some adverse effects asdiscussed next.
Empirical observations and scientific research have shown thatchildren from poorer backgrounds lag at all stages of education.While school feeding programs seek to address hunger matters atschool, these children may not be guaranteed of a decent meal athome. Thus, these kids lack the necessary balanced diet to help themperform optimally both cognitively and physically. Surveys acrossAmerica and other OECD countries have revealed that on average,elementary school children from poor backgrounds are estimated to be,on average, nine months behind in development compared to childrenfrom more wealthy backgrounds. A study by Hair and colleagues pointout that children from poor backgrounds scored 4 to 7 points lower onstandardized tests and showed delayed development of the frontallobe, temporal lobe, and hippocampus areas of the brain (825). At theage of around 14, the difference is about five terms. By age 16, thedifference is more pronounced academically with children from poorbackgrounds recording lower GPAs. Therefore, childhood poverty allowscyclical poverty to occur because the capacity of education as ameans of escape from poverty is diminished.
From a health perspective, children from low-income families are morelikely to die at birth or in infancy than children born into richerfamilies. This is directly linked to the mother`s access to a betternutrition during the pregnancy, quality of prenatal care, educationstandard of the parents, and access to quality postnatal care. Formany of the unemployed and impoverished Americans who cannot affordhealth insurance, they tend to pay for medical services out of thepocket (Poverty in the ed States). Such arrangements arestrenuous on their health and financial wellbeing. Furthermore,mothers may experience nutritional deficiencies during and afterbirth that affects the immunity and health status of their children(Yoshikawa, Aber, and Beardslee 274). Consequently, children frompoor backgrounds are more prone to chronic illnesses and are morelikely to suffer from a disability. Such health conditions affectlife expectancy, productivity in one`s lifetime, career choices andother such matters. Another area of concern is that children born inlow-income families are likely to suffer from obesity due to poornutritional habits. Obesity and other chronic diseases such asdiabetes are a threat to national security given that 27% ofAmericans aged 17 to 24 are obese thereby limiting the recruitmentpool for security forces (Egger 1). Therefore unless child poverty isaddressed with a focus on improving the health of children, there isa high likelihood that the effect will be felt in their lifetime andat the national level
Children living in poverty are more likely to develop behavioral andpsychosocial problems compared to their counterparts from wealthierbackgrounds. The social learning theory posits that children learn byimitating behavior from their environment. This implies that childrenbrought up in neighborhoods associated with poverty, violence, druguse, and other delinquent behaviors are likely to normalize and learnhabits depicted by adults (Shader 3). Furthermore, they are likely toexhibit major behavioral disorders such as aggression, attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorder. Otheremotional problems that have been observed in children raised inpoverty include anxiety depression, poor social skills, and lowself-esteem (Yoshikawa, Aber, and Beardslee 279).
Childhood poverty imposes additional costs to the US government. Itis estimated that its costs the US government $500 billion a year inlost productivity while economic output slows down 1.3 percent of GDP(Income and Poverty). Programs aimed at fighting poverty as opposedto employing preventive policy measures such as increasing minimumwages also consume a huge chunk of the national budget. Severalcountries in Europe have successfully employed preventive policymeasures such as child tax credit (Porter 3). Furthermore, othercosts are incurred in the form of higher crime levels among the poorpeople and higher expenditure on health for people living in povertyas they are more prone to diseases.
Moreover, childhood poverty denies children some basic human rights.While children are entitled to proper health care, shelter, housing,and education, poverty may deny them access to such rights.Furthermore, the quality of life experienced by children from poorbackgrounds is unacceptable in some cases. Simple items such as toysand safe playing spaces can be unavailable in some neighborhoods(Walton 3). They also miss out on crucial life stages needed todevelop their social skills that are critical in developing theircharacters and person. For instance, they lack opportunities to visitor invite friends to their homes if their neighborhoods are perceivedas unsafe by others. Also, children may be exposed to parental abuse(Child poverty). Thus, it is evident that some of the things thatchildren from wealthy families assume to be normal are unavailable tochildren living in poverty (APA).
From the points raised above, it is clear that poverty in childrenhas a myriad of adverse effects. It is high time that governments andprivate organizations harnessed resources to develop policies andprograms that will assist children and families living in poverty.Poverty alone lowers human dignity and is an insult to theachievements man has made in the 21st century. If the future is to bepursued and all the opportunities that it presents explored, thenthere is an urgent need to address childhood poverty.
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