Kevin Shattenkirk

In a new American Enterprise Institute report, I challenge conventional wisdom by showing that child poverty rates in the US are at historic lows, while government spending on children has increased dramatically in recent decades. Just Facts graph charting the consumption of the poorest 20 percent in the U.S. compared with the average consumption for OECD countries in 2010. The creation and expansion of programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and refundable tax credits, have increased federal spending dramatically. Just Facts listed a few examples: health care from Medicaid, free clinics, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; food from food stamps, school lunches, soup kitchens, food pantries, and welfare programs; housing and amenities provided through rent subsidies, utility assistance, and homeless shelters. They found that US child poverty rates declined from a high of 30 percent in the 1980s to 15.6 percent in 2016 — a number that would be lower if government benefits were fully captured in poverty measurement surveys. I also put in a request to make this part of their regular data offerings.”, While many of the 34 OECD countries had an average consumption level above the lowest 20 percent of Americans, the poorest Americans still consumed more, on average, than 64.7 percent of the OECD countries in 2010. The more reliable measure of material well-being is the consumption of goods and services.

It is true that the US has high “relative” poverty rates, but countries like the US always will because we have a wide income distribution and higher overall incomes than other countries. Dr. Henrique Schneider, professor of economics at Nordakademie University in Germany and the chief economist of the Swiss Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, analyzed the report and endorsed its methods. Since 1960, federal spending on low-income children has increased 17-fold in constant dollars, increasing from $16 billion to over $300 billion in 2018, according to data from the Urban Institute’s Kids’ Share. Child poverty rates in the US are at historically low levels, and similar to other countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada. “Our study shows that because of unreported income, charity, and non-cash government benefits like Medicaid and food stamps, consumption by America’s poorest 20 percent exceeds the national averages even in developed nations like Japan, New Zealand and Denmark,” James Agresti, president of Just Facts, said in a statement on the report. A proper understanding of the situation suggests that spending more government money on existing programs might reduce child poverty marginally more, but it does little to address the root causes that impede upward mobility, such as limited parental employment, not having two involved parents, and living in an unengaged community. To adjust this to a per-person basis like the World Bank dataset, Agresti said he divided the number by 2.6, the average number of people per household for the poorest 20 percent of U.S. households in 2010.

The study “found that the Times is not merely wrong about this issue but is reporting the polar opposite of reality.”, The Times reported OECD poverty rate data. The authors of “A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty,” for example, created their own poverty measure to reflect an “absolute” threshold and to account for differences in incomes across countries. Just Facts noted that the high consumption of the poorest Americans “doesn’t mean they live better than average people in the nations they outpace, like Spain, Denmark, Japan, Greece, and New Zealand.

Homelessness in Europe and the United States: A comparison of prevalence and public opinion. World Bank data, however, shows that 35 percent of Mexico’s population lives on less than $5.50 per day, compared to only two percent of people in the U.S. OECD data focuses on “income,” which excludes many non-cash benefits the poor receive from the government and private charity. Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and the ages of its members. “I wrote BEA to ask for later data, but none is available. Journal of Social Issues, 63(3), 505-524. As a result of revisions in PPP exchange rates, poverty rates for individual countries cannot be compared with poverty rates reported in earlier editions. A 2017 Unicef report looked at the relative child poverty rates of 41 well-off nations. Just Facts graph charting the consumption of the poorest 20 percent in the U.S. compared with the average consumption for developing countries in 2010. This truth gets lost when politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announce that, “The U.S. has the highest child poverty rate of almost any country on Earth,” or when Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) declares that America has “The moral obscenity of having the highest levels of child poverty in the industrialized world.” Mischaracterizing facts might help presidential hopefuls garner votes, but it risks separating important policy conversations from reality. Poverty headcount ratio at $5.50 a day is the percentage of the population living on less than $5.50 a day at 2011 international prices. This means that children in “relative” poverty in the US likely have a higher standard of living than children who occupy a similar spot on the socioeconomic ladder in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, for example. The Economics of Poverty. Please check your download folder. To get a better sense of poverty, we need a threshold that reflects the same standard of living across countries. In 2018, the poverty threshold—also known as the poverty … Now Our Health Experts™ Can 'Sense' Asymptomatic COVID-19 Spread. The methodological details behind different measures of poverty are important, and they often get lost when people hear provocative statements about America having the highest child poverty rates in the world. & MacKay, L. (2007). Figure E shows that the child poverty gap in the United States is 37.5 percent, the highest among peer countries. Today, the US spends as much on children, if not more, compared to other countries and child poverty rates are similar to those in peer nations.

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