Shamefully High Child Poverty Rates In the United States
Algernon AustinDr. Algernon Austin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Global Policy Solutions. Previously, he directed the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE). As the first director of PREE, Algernon built the program over six years into a nationally-recognized source for expert reports and policy analyses on the economic condition of America’s people of color.
Despite being a very rich country, the United States has a very high child poverty rate, many times higher than the rate in other rich countries. Since “poverty” can be defined differently in each country, UNICEF uses a relative poverty standard for international comparisons of child poverty. By this standard, children living in households earning less than 50 percent of the median household income for a country are defined as being poor.
In 2013, UNICEF found that the relative child poverty rate in the United States was 20 percent. This placed the United States 33rd out of 41 rich countries. The U.S. child poverty rate was twice that of Australia (9.3 percent), three times that of Ireland (6.9 percent), four times that of Denmark (4.8 percent), and five times that of Finland (3.7 percent)—the country with the lowest rate. The United States essentially chooses to have such high child poverty rates because we have among the weakest anti-poverty programs found in rich countries.