Preventing Child Poverty

Children are undoubtedly of vital importance to the future, and protecting them protects our future. Defined as a household earning below than 60 percent of the median income, child poverty is an ongoing, global struggle that has played a problematic role in societies throughout the world for decades. To give a more specific example, a recent 2015 definition describes poverty as an income of $24,036, for a family of four with two children. Although children in poverty often come from poor income families, they also commonly tend to be orphans being raised with limited, or some cases lacking state resources. The number of children in poverty varies by nation, but overall, is at a level too high for acceptance. Put it this way, a household income of as little as $30,000 puts you in the richest 1.23 percent of the world’s population. Economically, the world is so divided. My research attacks different methods in not only ridding this phenomenon but preventing it from occurring.

To provide with a better understanding of child poverty, I will begin by presenting a few national statistics. According to a UNICEF report, in the richest nation in the world, one in three kids live in poverty. The report goes on to specify that of the 41 wealthy countries in the world, Greece ranks 41st with the highest number of children living below the poverty line (41 percent). The United States ranks 36th, right before Mexico, who is 37th. By contrast, only 5.3 percent of Norwegian kids met this definition of poverty in the report.

 Child poverty doesn’t have its own solution, the resolution of child poverty begins with addressing and attacking the parents’ poverty. Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary for The Guardian, points to some solutions of poverty. He argues that problem debt is what sinks many families below the poverty line. The issue that persists with problem debt, is that the poorer you are, the higher the interest rates your loans attract, resulting in difficulties in finding motivation to pay them off.

The goal is to find a way to prevent child poverty from occurring, as we do not just want to end or reduce it now, simply so it can come right back. While commonly proposed solutions such as increasing employment and making work pay for adults with children sounds great, we must keep in mind that creating solutions which benefit adults with children will result in an increase in adults having children simply to get the benefits that comes with it. An adult having a child simply to reap the benefits for him/herself can, as one would imagine, lead to child abuse and/or neglect.

To prevent child poverty, the negative effects of it must be attacked. The three main effects of child poverty that stand out are education, health, and economic security. Finding a way to provide people around the world with this can prevent people from going into poverty. A quality education is essential in excelling through life. With education children are given the knowledge and life skills needed to see their full potential. A good education allows children to be pointed in the right direction. Stable health and access to health care is vital in allowing children to grow up healthy and strong. Lastly, economic security goes a long way. Economic instability is what is directly linked to poverty. To overcome poverty more families must be economically stable, which can be resulted to through providing quality education and health care.

As mentioned earlier, Norway has the lowest number of children living in poverty. So how does Norway do it? Norway, along with other Scandinavian countries all have an incredibly strong welfare state with well-developed social safety nets. In Scandinavia, it is strongly believed that everyone should have equal rights and access to healthcare, social services, and education. Therefore, the governments of Scandinavian countries not only provide their citizens with the resources needed for them to have all the basic necessities, but they also provide people with the skills and abilities needed to become fully functioning members of society.

There is no doubt in my mind of the existence of child poverty. Nonetheless, I must present in this article all realities of the phenomenon, some which may challenge arguments for child poverty. I begin with some loopholes in statistical data. Child poverty is unquestionably too high. However, we must keep in mind that a household can struggle with poverty and its effects (debt, unemployment, poor health, or poor education, family breakdown etc.) and still be living a happy and okay life by their kids. Just as, in contrast, a family can be far above the poverty line, yet neglecting and abusing their kids. Therefore, although data may place a family and the children in poverty, it may not always be linked with an unhappy environment and lifestyle. Keep in mind that wealth doesn’t equal happiness, just as poverty doesn’t result in unhappiness.

In addition to statistical data, Smith argues that “as we saw earlier this year [2012] when the child poverty level dropped 2%, a fall in the median income may lift a family out of poverty on paper. Yet … real incomes did not rise and absolute poverty was unchanged.” So, data may look better, in ridding the amount of poverty, but life for those children still stays the same. Smith added, “a fixation on relative income, on moving people over an arbitrary line … does little to identify those most in need and entrenched in disadvantage, nor to transform their lives.” He argues that families may be income-poor, but also suffer from the effects of poverty, as mentioned earlier as debt, unemployment, poor education, family breakdown, and poor health. The struggles of these effects give families an extra weight to carry. Giving these families increased benefits will not address the reason they find themselves in this hardship, to begin with.

So, as I did, you may argue that child poverty could easily decrease if couples who are not in the financial state to raise a child avoid doing so by simply not having a child. Since people with good futures, economically, often delay having children until they find themselves in the correct time of their life when they can provide with all that is needed to raise a child, the argument is often made that all people should participate in waiting to have a child until financial stable enough to raise one. Nonetheless, what about those who never see their economic status rising in the future? Is it realistic to shame that couple for wanting so badly to have a child although they know it may lead to another child poverty situation (keeping in mind that the happiest child could be living in poverty)? Additionally, those who don’t see a good economic future also may find that the only way to attract political interest in their own poverty is to take a child out the mix. It’s the sad truth. Drawing all attention to child poverty is understandable, we feel more empathy for a child, who had no say in where he ended up, whereas with adult poverty we blame the adult, himself. The thing is, in order to end child poverty, attention needs to be attracted towards poverty as a whole, not just child poverty.

Amanda Pedersen-Henry

Second year student at Villanova University studying Communication (Journalism) and Political Science.