Courtesy of Children's Defense Fund
Courtesy of Children's Defense Fund

The child population in the U.S., while the most diverse in history, represents the poorest demographic in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22% of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman-founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality continue to escalate and harm children in low-income, Black and brown families. Of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, nearly 71% were those of color.

And while the share of all wealth held by the top 1% of Americans grew from 30% to 37%, the share held by the bottom 90% fell from 33% to 23% between 1989 and 2019. Today, a member of the top 10% of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90%.

As for the median family income, the number for white households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900) and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness. More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year and 74% of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year temporarily lived with family or friends.

Millions of children live lack reliable access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food with over 1 in 7 children, 10.7 million, facing food insecurity. Said another way, they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat with Black and Hispanic children twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as white children.

The report shows that America’s schools have continued to slip backward into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating long-standing achievement gaps. For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19% of Black, 21% of Hispanic and more than 26% of American Indian/Alaska Native students failed to graduate on time compared with only 11% of white students.

More than 77% of Hispanic and more than 79% of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019 compared with less than 60% of white students.

“We’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice have met a point of intersection. So, we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice. Quite frankly, you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

When comparing white students to those of other races, additional inequities exist in areas which include the frequency of: public school suspensions, conditions which lead to a student dropping out of high school, student arrests and incidents of corporal punishment.

Dr. Wilson believes federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities” as the report reveals that children lack the amount of investment they need to thrive. Despite representing such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5% of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population; we’re headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine,” he noted.

Still, the Children’s Defense Fund has expressed satisfaction with President Joe Biden’s

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contains $1,400 checks for individuals but includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty. Biden’s plan also expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“Biden’s plan] carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” said Dr. Wilson who added that the expansion of the child tax credit has the potential of reducing poverty – an outcome that benefits all children, particularly those Black and brown.

Click here to view the full report.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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