September 14, 2023
The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty today. It confirms that policymakers have all the tools necessary to reduce poverty rates, but they choose to have a high U.S. poverty rate. Although the United States is one of the richest countries in the world, the U.S. has a much higher child poverty rate than other rich countries.
The United States moved in the right direction on poverty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Policymakers provided emergency relief payments and expanded the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. These policies produced a dramatic decline in child poverty for all racial groups. The Hispanic and Black child poverty rates declined by more than 10 percent points (see Figure). This was a tremendous achievement for the groups with the highest child poverty rates. Rather than continue the success of the pandemic anti-poverty policies, conservative policymakers chose to condemn more children to poverty by letting policies such as the expanded child tax credit expire.
A common response to the obvious fact that the United States can do more to reduce poverty is that the country cannot afford it. The refrain depends on people not knowing that other rich countries are, in fact, investing a larger share of their GDP on reducing poverty. Since children who grow up in poverty have poor social and economic outcomes, fighting child poverty is a smart investment. But instead, too many policymakers support regularly cutting taxes on the richest Americans and corporations rather than using that money to improve the lives of the poorest Americans. These policymakers are choosing to have a high U.S. poverty rate and worsening the economic health of the nation.