The United States has the second-highest child poverty rate among the world’s richest 35 nations, and the cost in economic and educational outcomes is half a trillion dollars a year, according to a new report by the Educational Testing Service.
The report, called “Poverty and Education, Finding the Way Forward,” says that 22 percent of the nation’s children live in relative poverty, with only Romania having a higher rate in the group of 35 nations. (Next are Latvia, Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Japan and Portugal, it says; the country with the lowest child poverty rate is Iceland, and the second lowest is Finland.) The report notes, though, that the official U.S. poverty rate is incomplete, and that other data show that 48 percent of the population had incomes in 2011 that are considered inadequate or not livable. (Relative poverty rates refer to people with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty threshold.)
It is estimated that the economic and educational effects amount to some $500 billion a year, the report says. Compared with children whose families had incomes of at least twice the poverty line during their early childhood, poor children:
*completed two fewer years of school
*earned less than half as much money
*worked 451 fewer hours per year
*received $826 per year more in food stamps
*were nearly three times as likely to have poor health
Furthermore, poor males were twice as likely to get arrested and poor females were five times more likely to have a child out of wedlock.
There are big differences in educational outcomes as well, the report said:
Education has been envisioned as the great equalizer, able to mitigate the effects of poverty on children by equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to lead successful and productive lives. Unfortunately, this promise has been more myth than reality. Despite some periods of progress, the achievement gap between white and black students remains substantial (Barton & Coley, 2010). Yet today, income has surpassed race/ethnicity as the great divider. Income-related achievement gaps have continued to grow as the gap between the richest and poorest American families has surged. As researcher Sean Reardon of Stanford University explained recently in The New York Times: ‘We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race’ (Tavernise, 2012, para 4)