Poverty claims record number of children
(District of Columbia) Prior to the economic downturn in 2006, the number of homeless children enrolled in public schools was about 675,000. Today it is closer to 1.2 million, according to new research from the Children’s Defense Fund.
In a wide-ranging report utilizing a variety of indicators, the non-profit advocacy group painted a bleak outlook for millions of American children – especially those of color, which are expected to become the majority by 2019.
Overall, one in five children in America – about 16.1 million – was classified as poor in 2012. About half of them, some 7.1 million children, lived in extreme poverty, meaning a family of four existed on less than $12,000 per year.
Saying the crisis has reached epic proportions, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the organization, called on President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to do more.
“America’s dream continues to fade for millions of poor, near poor and middle class children and families; work and wages continue to decline; and education and basic survival needs — including adequate food and housing — continue to be ravaged to protect the powerful interests of the top 1 percent that has cornered 22 percent of the nation’s income, then America will miss the boat to the future,” Edelman said in a statement. “More importantly, we will miss a great opportunity to show the world a living and just society in a majority non-White and poor world desperately in need of moral example.”
Among the findings of interest to the education community:
- More than 21 million children received free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program in 2012.
- Seventy-five percent of homeless public school students in 2011-12 were living “doubled up” with family or friends, 15 percent were in shelters, 6 percent were in hotels or motels, and the remaining 4 percent were unsheltered.
- On a single night in January 2013, 138,149 children were homeless in shelters, transitional housing, or on the streets, making up nearly one quarter (23 percent) of all homeless people counted that night. Among these homeless children, 6,197 were unaccompanied and 3,675 were unaccompanied and unsheltered.
- Nearly 1 in 3 children of color — 11.2 million children — was poor, and more than 1 in 3 children of color under age 5 — 3.5 million — were poor.
- Black children were the poorest (39.6 percent) followed by American Indian/Native Alaskan children (36.8 percent) and Hispanic children (33.7 percent).
- In 2012, more than 1 in 9 children lived in households where they were food insecure, meaning they lacked consistent access to adequate food.
- Early Head Start, which provides comprehensive services for infants and toddlers through home visiting, center-based care and family child care, was funded to serve only an estimated 4 percent of the 2.9 million poor children under age three who were eligible for the program on any given day in FY2012.
- From 2011 to 2012 total federal spending on children decreased 7 percent, and spending on early childhood programs decreased by 12 percent. The sequestration budget cuts eliminated more than 57,000 children from Head Start and Early Head Start in 2013.