Thursday, January 19, 2012

Childhood Poverty in America 2012

The above chart graphically depicts the relative standing of the U.S. in terms of childhood poverty.  The U.S. simply cannot lay claim to economic greatness nor to being the land of economic opportunity in the face of this reality. With nearly 25 percent of our children living in poverty we are more on par with Bulgaria and Mexico than economically advanced nations such as Denmark, Australia, Luxembourg and Norway.

Interestingly, those advanced nations also sport far higher per capita income (in U.S. dollars) than the U.S.: Denmark produces $63,000 per capita, Australia $67,000, Luxembourg $122,000, and Norway $97,000 per capita. The U.S. suffers weak per capita GDP of $48,000 (and holding for about 15 years). While one can always nitpick the data (for example, should we really count incarceration costs as GDP, as we currently do, which fattens the weak U.S. performance) the picture suggests the creeping third world reality gripping the U.S., due largely to its laissez faire economic policies and corrupt politics where money rules over law.

Thus, Dr. King's commitment to fight against poverty and in favor of economic opportunity is as relevant today as ever, and is both morally and economically compelling. The U.S. cannot be either a moral or economic leader of the world with one in four children impoverished. Perhaps our new claim should be land of childhood poverty.

Professor Steven A. Ramirez
Loyola University Chicago
School of Law


  1. There will be no economic recovery in the US if this issue is not addressed.

  2. We need to unite the people to vote out all our corrupt US politicians so we can begin reforming our corrupt federal and state governments. Without changing the heart of our system--- we will one day have mass protests similar to the Middle East today. Is that what our legacy to our children will be like ?True democracy can easily be lost to greed and selfishness. That loss has already begun. Please wake up to what kind of country we are building right now !!!

  3. If we are indeed the most powerful country in the world--as some have touted--there must be some justification (albeit immoral, likely) for the poverty level of children. Whatever justification is proposed may not truly justify the poverty problem, but knowing where our money goes compared to countries like Turkey and Romania might better explain our nation's priorities. Most would agree that fixing the poverty problem with children should be a higher priority than it is.

    Attempting to fix the poverty problem implicates a broader concern. Assuming that impoverished children live with impoverished families, fixing one means fixing the other. Fixing the problem of child poverty means fixing the problem of impoverished families. But even addressing the more general problem of poverty as a whole should be a higher priority, especially given our nation's comparative stature to other nations who appear to be better addressing the problem.

    To address the broad concern of poverty--which includes the child poverty problem--we should look at how wealth is concentrated in America, for the solution to poverty will be a better spreading around of our wealth. One apparent concentration lies in our corporations. With the narrow purpose of increasing shareholders profits, corporations widen the gap between the rich and the poor. As such, corporations should be required to spread around their wealth. The advent of benefit corporations spotlight the problem of concentrated wealth, and hopefully benefit corps will trend. But until then, we must sit and wait for Robin Hood.

  4. Corporations do not pursue shareholder primacy in the U.S.; they impose CEO primacy. Just follow the money. . .