Lordy Be this is a piece of plain flat out idiocy from Save the Children. They’ve decided to do a report on the problems of child poverty in the US. Reasonable enough, there are indeed children out there who suffer from poverty. In the US there are even those who suffer from more than just that European style relative poverty, living in households with less than 60% of median household income. Of course, there’s no one at all living in global poverty, that $1.90 per day per person which is the World Bank number for absolute poverty. But there are most certainly some children in the US who are what we can righteously say are poor.
The problem with Save the Children is that they don’t seem to know the very first thing about US poverty statistics. They’re therefore blathering nonsense on the subject.
Par for the course from this source but really, a charity, someone spending other peoples’ voluntary donations, should do the work to be better informed than this:
The End of Childhood Report 2018 ranks 175 countries based on a set of indicators considered to be roadblocks to a safe and healthy childhood, including poor health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy, and extreme violence. In 95 of those countries, the overall situation for children improved from the previous year. But the index shows that conditions for children got worse in 40 countries, and warns that “poverty, conflict and discrimination against girls are putting more than 1.2 billion children—over half of children worldwide—at risk for an early end to their childhood.”
It’s entirely true that there are horrors out there and we’d all like to reduce their incidence. But:
What Does This Mean for America?
In the 2018 End of Childhood Report, the U.S. is still ranked 36th, alongside countries like Russia, Kuwait and Bosnia. Even though America is among the most developed, wealthiest countries in the world, we continue to trail behind most of Western Europe in helping children reach their full potential. See the full ranking in our End of Childhood Report.
In fact, a shocking 14.1 children in the U.S. are growing up in poverty. And while most Americans think child poverty is only an urban issue, child poverty rates are higher in rural areas. Nearly 1 in 4 rural children grow up in poverty.
A descent into the vernacular is the only proper response here. That’s bollocks. Great, big, fat, hairy, bollocks.
Even if we correct their typo to 14.1 million children, it’s still wrong. Here’s why, from their own report:
6 In the United States, being in poverty is officially defined as having an income
below a federally determined poverty threshold. Poverty thresholds were
developed in the 1960s and are adjusted annually to account for inflation.
They represent the federal government’s estimate of the point below which
a family of a given size has cash income insufficient to meet basic needs. The
thresholds form the basis for calculating the “incidence of poverty,” which is
typically reported as a headcount or as a percentage of the population.
No, that’s the official poverty line. That is, who is below this line before all of the things which we do to alleviate poverty? In more detail, before all of the goods and services, influences of the tax system, we hand over to try and reduce poverty. This is entirely different from the definition of poverty in all the other countries they have in their full report. Which is the more usual less than 60% of median household income after the influence of everything done to reduce the incidence of poverty.
The major poverty reduction programs in the US are, in order, Medicaid, the EITC, Snap, then Section 8. These account for damn near a trillion dollars a year. That poverty number Save the Children is using includes the effects of absolutely none of these. No, really, the way it is calculated if we, in reverse order, give someone housing, food, cash back from the taxman and free medical care then they’re still just as poor as when we started. That is, this is a ludicrous measure of the incidence of poverty, of the number living in poverty.
It’s an absolutely great definition of those who would be in poverty if we didn’t help them.
We should, as they don’t, take account of those things done to alleviate poverty. Something I’ve pointed out before:
The US system is rather good at one specific thing: getting children above the poverty line. The much bandied about 20 per cent or higher child poverty rate is, again, the figure for before measures are taken to reduce it. If we measure after action is taken then it falls to perhaps 2 per cent or so, which is pretty good for government work.
We’ve even got conformation of this in a UN report on childhood poverty in the US:
Just to emphasize this when they talk about child poverty (para 25) we’re told that 18 percent of children live in poverty, 13.3 million. Then in paragraph 29, we’re told that food stamps (SNAP) lift 5 million out of poverty, the EITC another 5 million.
So, the number of children “living in poverty” is not 13.3 million, is it — it’s 3.3 million. That comes out to just 4.5 percent of children “living in poverty,” after the effects of just two of the things we do to reduce poverty.
In their own report, the U.N. is detailing how their claims of the number in poverty in the U.S. are entirely wrong – codswallop in fact.
Save the Children is entirely ignoring the effects of what the US does to reduce child poverty. Entirely opposite to the statistics they use for absolutely every other country in the world. Which means they’re either as dumb as rocks or lying. Your choice on that but neither option gives much confidence does it? Nor much of a reason to listen to what they’re saying.
Oh, and cancel your donations to people as dumb as this too.