Here's What's Been Happening to America's Children Since the Great Recession


The Great Recession was cruel to most Americans. To children, it was arguably even worse. By 2013, the percentage of kids living in poverty in the United States rose to a staggering 22% — that's 5 percentage points higher than the early days of the Great Recession in 2008.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed these findings Tuesday with the release of its 2015 Kids Count Data Book. The numbers suggest that the economic recovery celebrated in glowing reports of month-over-month job growth fails to illustrate this key part of the story.

Here's where we are now: Despite an unemployment rate 2 percentage points lower today than in 2013, the year this data was collected, UNICEF reports that in 2014, child poverty in the United States — the country with the most millionaires and billionaires on earth — was higher than at least 33 other developed countries. 

Laura Speer, an associate director at the Casey Foundation, told USA Today that even if this rate has gone down in the past two years, it is unlikely to have lowered the number of children living in low-income neighborhoods.

"It's a much bigger issue that's happening relating to residential segregation, the cost of housing and other factors," Speer explained.

The U.S. poverty line was $23,550 for a family of four in 2013. The child poverty rate that year was more than 5 points higher than the overall rate of 14.5%.

Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

It only gets worse from there: The individual costs of child poverty are well documented. Children growing up in poor families face higher risks of inadequate prenatal and childhood nutrition, lower access to childcare, higher likelihoods of parental depression, substance abuse and domestic violence, and worse outcomes in terms of cognitive development and academic achievement, according to the Casey Foundation report.

But not all victims are created equal. The racial asymmetry of child poverty in America is one of its more astounding features. While 14% of white children in the U.S. live in poverty, 39% of black children do. Native American and non-white Hispanic children aren't far behind, with 37% and 33% poverty rates, respectively. 

This comes less than two weeks after the Pew Research Center found that the sheer number — not just the percentage — of black children living in poverty has surpassed that of white children for the first time since such data was collected. Whites make up 77.7% of the U.S. population. Blacks are a mere 13.2%.

If these numbers tell us anything — besides that the post-recession United States has been great for multi-millionaire CEOs and terrible for poor people — it's that systemic racial inequality is actually pretty simple to illustrate: A bad thing happened — the Great Recession — and very few Americans came away unscathed. Yet in almost every conceivable way, it turned out worse for people of color.

Black child poverty rates are still higher than everyone else's. Black wealth continued falling long after white wealth stabilized following the recession, resulting in an additional 13% wealth loss for black people. And the legacy of anti-black segregation, housing and employment discrimination are all apparent in the consistency of these patterns.

Racism isn't just white people marching through Charleston waving Confederate flags. This, too, is what racism looks like.

h/t USA Today