The Real Math of Child Poverty In America

December 12, 2007

I was somewhat surprised when I recently came across the following paragraph on the Voices for America's Children homepage:

As a society we pay a steep price for allowing one in five of our nation's children to live in poverty. Economists estimate the annual national cost of persistent childhood poverty due to lost adult productivity and wages, increased crime, and higher health expenditures is massive: approximately $500 billion or four percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

I have been wondering, for some time, in my own efforts to bring more caring citizens into the battle for children's rights and well-being, whether people are really motivated by such scary, but real, numbers. I am not sure. Too often, while I get their attention, including their support for important community initiatives, the national issues seem so formidable, and problems so unsolvable, that they induce a feeling of helplessness and a waving off of meaningful dialogue.

I get much greater attention, of course, when my presentations focus on the daunting numbers of children who live in poverty or are caught up in failing foster care or juvenile justice systems throughout the country.

I am always indebted to the Child Welfare League of America for their Annual Fact Sheets, and to people like Chief Judge Judith Kaye of the NY State Supreme Court, for her pointed treatment of the hard facts. (For a sampling of both, visit the Child Advocacy360 Doing the Math resource.)

But where is the good news—the good numbers showing progress in important programs on behalf of vulnerable children? I am not finding in the national press or online the positive reports that Children's Defense Fund and others rightly display in their own literature.

At Connect For Kids and Child Advocacy 360, we find much more good news and encouragement at the community level—”in the Real People, Real Results stories we publish. That is where we can find impact we can touch and feel, and build upon in citizen advocacy and volunteerism.

To that end you will see, in coming months, how our two organizations plan to use our "Communication as Catalyst" program to engage a much broader public in growing the good numbers for child well being.


Hershel Sarbin is the founder and publisher of  Child Advocacy360 News Network.

Hershel Sarbin, Child Advocacy 360





You are so right! I am a sociology student and just completed a sociology of childhood class. The problem of child poverty is simply daunting! Reading statistic after statistic makes me want to do something but then I think "where do I start?" and it makes me shut-down in the helplessness. I signed up for the newsletter on this website and hope to find a place to start as I explore the site.