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Almost 1 in 7 Children in America Live in Poverty, With Infants and Toddlers at Greatest Risk

Washington, D.C. – On the heels of the Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan, which includes policies to cut child poverty, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2021, which would establish a national goal of reducing child poverty by half in 10 years and require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Census Bureau to annually track the progress toward that goal. In 2018, 11.9 million children were living in poverty. U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL-7) is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“It is completely unacceptable that children are living in poverty in the richest country in the world,” said Senator Casey. “Children living in poverty are at greater risk of behavioral and emotional problems and poverty has also been shown to adversely affect academic and health outcomes of children, especially during early childhood. With more than 15 percent of children in Pennsylvania living in poverty, the Child Poverty Reduction Act is a critical tool to help improve economic stability and security for children and their families. We must ensure every child in Pennsylvania, and across the country, has the opportunity to flourish and the freedom to reach their full potential.”

“There are far too many children living in poverty both in Wisconsin and across our country. We must act now,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m leading this legislation with Senators Casey and Brown to take action and meet the challenge of better understanding and ending child poverty, so we can build a better future for all children in America.”

“Whether they’re raised in families that are working harder than ever with less and less to show for it, or in overwhelmed and underfunded foster care programs, far too many children are brought up with the odds stacked against them. For Black and brown children, systemic racism often reinforces cycles of poverty. Building on the historic expansion of the Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan, which is estimated to cut child poverty in half, this legislation is an important step toward ensuring that federal policies and programs actually work to reduce child poverty and promote the health, safety, and economic security for all children,” said Senator Brown.

“We live in the wealthiest nation in the world,” said Representative Davis. “It is inexcusable and unacceptable for so many of our children to be condemned to grow up in America under these conditions. Including this bill in our coronavirus response will prioritize alleviating child poverty and ensure our success. Without continuous monitoring of child poverty during this crisis and recovery, we risk irreparable harm to our youngest children, especially children of color.”

Poverty not only affects individual children, but also has broader societal effects, including higher spending on health care, increased rates of crime, reduced rates of education attainment and higher spending on remedial education. Last year, Senator Casey announced a comprehensive legislative agenda, the Five Freedoms for America’s Children. This agenda laid out a roadmap identifying five basic freedoms that our society must guarantee to the Nation’s children—the Freedom to be Healthy, the Freedom to be Economically Secure, the Freedom to Learn, the Freedom from Hunger and the Freedom to be Safe from Harm.

Among the policy recommendations in the agenda, Senator Casey proposed expanding the Child Tax Credit, with Senators Brown and Michael Bennet (D-CO), and authored the expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, both of which were included on a temporary basis in the American Rescue Plan. Casey has also proposed the creation of children’s saving accounts, seeded annually with $500 in government contributions, which can be used for retirement savings and long term equity building or to pursue a post-secondary education, home ownership or a business enterprise.

Read more about The Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2021 here.