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Social Policy Report — Children, Families and Poverty Definitions:Trends, Emerging Science and Implications for Policy

December 8, 2012

Social Policy Report — Children, Families and Poverty Definitions:Trends, Emerging Science and Implications for Policy (PDF)

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to address the topic of children and poverty in the U.S., given current scientific knowledge about poverty’s influence on children and effective strategies to mitigate its negative impact. In this report, we summarize the best available information on definitions and trends in child poverty, policy responses to child poverty and the impact of poverty on children’s health and development. Research suggests that various factors exert upward and downward pressure on child poverty rates. Upward pressure is exerted by declining work rates for men, stagnant wages for low-wage workers, increasing rates of children raised in female-headed households, and growing gaps in educational attainment. Downward pressure is exerted by the U.S. system of antipoverty policies and programs, which appears to be cutting “pre-transfer” poverty rates by more than 50%. Nonetheless, child poverty rates in the United States are high by both historical and international comparison. We then review the emerging science on biological and ecological processes by which poverty affects child development and key findings regarding the efficacy of comprehensive strategies to reduce poverty and to promote the human capital development of poor children. In the final section, we reflect on implications for moving forward in science and policy.

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