Following the release of the 2012 Census data, perhaps the most disturbing statistics are those that relate to children. The results show that about one in five children in the U.S. are living in poverty, and this figure is even more disappointing once it is broken down by race. African American children are impoverished at more than triple the rate of white children, and about one in three Hispanic children live below the poverty line.
Although the recession is over and the economy is showing signs of improvement, this reality has not benefitted families belonging to the working poor. As parents work long hours and still struggle to put food on the table, children suffer due to a lack of proper nutrition and poor early childhood development. By the time these kids start attending school, they are already at a severe disadvantage. While education should provide a way for children to lift themselves out of poverty, those coming from families who face economic hardship are practically doomed from the start.
Cognitive development and learning ability are compromised when children must grow up in poverty. As a result, these children are denied the chance to meet their full potential because their families’ finances do not allow them the ability to thrive. According to Dr. Bernard Dreyer, professor of pediatrics at NYU and co-chair of the Academic Pediatric Association, “Many are loving families, they’re not bad parents, but they often don’t have the resources to really protect their children or advance their children’s development.”
Children who live in poverty are exposed to what Dreyer calls “toxic stress,” which comes to have a negative impact on their personal growth. This is why the Census statistics about child poverty rates are so disheartening. Impoverished children are burdened with inevitable setbacks that offset their development and bar them from success. This unfortunate state of affairs will only work to perpetuate poverty and maintain existing inequalities.