According to a new study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, children are the most likely to live in poor economic conditions as compared to all other age groups.
The research used data from American Community Survey and found that in 2015, 40 percent of all US children belonged to low income-families. This percentage includes more than 5 million toddlers and infants under the age of 3, while 30 percent of all adults had low income.
More than 31 million children belong to economically-challenged families in the US and are hardly able to meet their most fundamental needs, despite improving poverty rates and overall income increase over the years.
NCPP Director Renée Wilson-Simmons, added that even though there are many charities and other programs that provide individuals with health insurance and food supplies there is still a 50-50 chance that a child is born in poverty and in an economically-challenged household.
He further said, “But being a child in a low-income or poor family doesn’t happen by chance and this should not be our approach either. In the coming weeks, hundreds of new leaders will take the helm at agencies responsible for implementing policies that touch the lives of poor children and affect their odds of success in life.”
“It’s imperative that they do so with a real understanding of the disadvantages millions of Americans face from very young ages and what growing up poor looks like in America.”
The Basic Facts About Low-Income Children sheet compiled by National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) has highlighted how economic crisis hit low income families and poor children in the US.
According to the NCCP a poor family is the one which is below poverty line. In 2015 poverty line was set as around $24,000 for 2 adults and 2 children, whereas households which have less than twice the poverty income, which is around $48,000 for 2 adults and 2 children, are considered low income families.
The number of children born in poor households increased by 1%, from 42% to 43% from 2009 to 2015 and the number of poor children born in the US also increased by 1%. Heather Coball, the NCCP director of Family Economic Security expressed distress about the alarming fact that there were 300,000 more poor children than at the time of Great Depression.
According to Coball, the trauma of being born in a poor family can leave mental scars on a child as he or she grows up which can transform into depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Poverty also greatly affects a child’s health and potential earning prowess.
Coball further added that these statistics highlight the need for healthy governing bodies and policymakers to fully understand the consequences of childhood.
Studies have shown that living in poor economic conditions for a prolonged period of time hinders brain function and can cause dementia.
Moreover, poor households do not have access to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, as a massive cross-sectional study published in the journal Lancet Global Health has found the consumption of vegetables and fruits to be directly proportional to their affordability.
The results showed that as fruits and vegetables became more affordable people consumed them proportionally. For low income countries, the reverse was true as well. 1.7 million deaths occur each year due to a lack of fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet around the globe. That makes up a significant 2.8% of all deaths annually. A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables is often the basis of non-communicable diseases, like cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Children belonging to poor backgrounds also suffer from diseases such as asthma and obesity, and are less likely to learn or attend formal schooling which can impair cognitive and psychosocial development.
This behavior affects their grades, which leads to angst, anxiety, depression and antisocial behavior. This also affects family life. Families under financial stress cannot give proper attention to their children which drives a wedge between parents and children..
Policymakers and health organizations need to keep other factors such as ethnicity and race, and parents’ education levels in mind, which can help them better differentiate poor and low income children from those who belong to economically stable families.