Child poverty in U.S. is at highest point in 20 years, report finds

After the Great Recession, child poverty in the U.S. is at highest level in 20 years, researchers say

Child poverty in America is at its highest point in 20 years, putting millions of children at increased risk of injuries, infant mortality, and premature death, according to a policy analysis published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

As the U.S. emerges from the worst recession since the Great Depression, 25% of children don’t have enough food to eat and 7 million kids still don’t have health insurance, the analysis says. Even worse: Five children die daily by firearms, and one dies every seven hours from abuse or neglect. 

“It shouldn’t be this hard for kids to grow and thrive in the world’s richest, most powerful nation,” co-author Bruce Lesley, president of the Washington-based child advocacy organization First Focus, said in a written statement.

The report -- co-written with Dr. Glenn Flores, professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern -- notes that although 24% of Americans are children, only 12% of the National Institutes of Health’s 2013 budget was devoted to pediatric research.

Lesley and Flores called on the federal government to take 10 specific steps to turn things around for kids, including:

-- set a national target date for the elimination of child poverty;  

-- cut maltreatment deaths in half by 2018; 

-- step up funding for pediatric research; 

-- invest in children’s nutrition programs;

-- extend Medicaid insurance programs for children; 

-- enforce a mandatory criminal background check for every firearm sale; and

-- increase the number of mental health-care providers by enhancing Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“Child well-being in America has declined since the most recent recession,” Lesley and Flores wrote. “Overwhelming, bipartisan support by American voters exists for measures that would enhance our nation’s investments in and focus on children’s health and well-being. ... The needs of our nation’s children have never been greater.”

Follow me on Twitter @geholland and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
80°