More Than One in Five Children Remain in Poverty

By:  Bob Adelmann
More Than One in Five Children Remain in Poverty

War on Poverty continues to fail, more than one in five children are living in poverty.

If further proof is needed that the so-called War on Poverty continues to fail, the latest report from the Census Bureau has just provided it: 21.3 percent of children under the age of 18 — more than one in five — are living in poverty. In 1964, the year that then-President Lyndon Johnson declared the federal government’s war on poverty, that percentage was 22.7 percent.

The news from the Census Bureau provides additional evidence of the war’s failure: “The lowest recorded rate of child poverty was in 1969, when 13.8 percent of children were counted as poor.” In simple terms, as the cost of the War on Poverty has escalated from $178 billion a year (in present dollar terms) to nearly a trillion dollars a year, the poverty level among children has risen by more than 50 percent.  

But among single female-headed families the numbers are vastly worse, said the bureau:

In 2012, a child living in a single female-headed family was well over four times more likely to be poor than a child living in a married-couple family.

In 2012, among all children living in single female-headed families, 47.2 percent were poor.

Back in 2010 the Associated Press noted that most of those single female-headed families are black. Wrote the AP:

Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock.

The black community’s 72 percent [illegitimacy] rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics, and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008.

In its attempt to explain the wide discrepancy, the AP named the usual arguments: a “legacy” of segregation, the drug epidemic sending disproportionate numbers of black men to prison and so forth. But the AP also revealed one single primary reason: “Welfare [state] laws created a financial incentive for poor mothers to stay single.”

This was predicted by author and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan — later the Democratic senator from New York for four terms — in his 1965 book The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, in which he concluded that the absence of a father in the home would greatly hinder progress toward economic and political equality. This flew in the face of the popular notion that economic conditions were primarily responsible for social success. As Moynihan later noted: “It turned out that what everyone knew was evidently not so.” He added:

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