Interim Dean Garfinkel Contributes to Study on Slashing Child Poverty

April 4, 2019 @ 9:06 pm

In a new National Academies report, Interim Dean Irwin Garfinkel and colleagues identify the most effective policy means for reducing child poverty in the U.S. from its current rate of 13 percent.

In February, the National Academies published A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, which detailed a study of the most effective policy and programmatic means for halving the child poverty rate in the U.S. within 10 years. Interim Dean Irwin Garfinkel was one of 15 experts who conducted the study, which they described in a recent article on EconoFact titled, “Can the U.S. Cut Child Poverty in Half in a Decade?

As of 2015, 13 percent of children in the U.S.—9.6 million—lived below the poverty line, setting them up for lifelong challenges.

According to the findings of Garfinkel and his colleagues:

“Poor children have weaker language and memory skills than their peers, and these problems continue into adulthood. When they grow up, poor children have lower earnings and income, are more dependent on public assistance, have more health problems, and are more likely to commit crimes.”

Key takeaways from the study are summarized below.

United States Lagging Its Peers
Though the United States has previously cut its child poverty rate in half, it took 36 years to do so, from 1970 to 2016. The U.K. achieved this same reduction in less than a decade, from 2001 to 2008. Canada, having introduced new poverty alleviation measures in 2016, will likely accomplish the same in even less time.

“Other countries have demonstrated that this goal can in fact be achieved, given the will to do so,” say the National Academies cohort.

Existing Programs and Policies Work
The committee estimates that without programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the child poverty rate would have been almost six percent higher in 2015.

“Without strong action by policymakers, however,” the team writes, “poverty and its inevitable consequences will continue to impose great costs on children, families, and the nation.”

No Magic Bullet
The committee stresses that no single policy or program prescription will drastically cut child poverty by itself. Rather, the most effective approach is to “package” policies and programs that work in concert, including a mix of tax credits, income supports, and a federal minimum wage increase.

High Cost, Higher Rewards
Although the two most effective packages the committee proposed carried hefty price tags of $90 billion and $110 billion per year, this investment is dwarfed by the economic returns on reduced poverty. Child poverty is estimated to cost the U.S. economy between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion each year through reduced worker productivity, increased healthcare costs, and judicial system expenses.

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You can learn more about the committee’s work and read the full report on the National Academies website.

Related link:
Irwin Garfinkel Appointed to National Panel of Experts to Build Agenda to Cut Child Poverty in Half in 10 Years (April 27, 2017, item in CSSW newsfeed)