A Major New Report On Child Welfare In the United States
Since last Friday, our minds have been focused on children. Those who lost their lives in the Newtown, Conn. tragedy on Friday. Those at that school who survived. Those at schools around the country, who now seem much more vulnerable to, of all things, an assault-rifle hit, even though they don’t live in a war zone. Or even in a high-crime neighborhood.
Newtown is, I now know although I’d never heard of it before Friday, an upscale midsize town that serves largely as a so-called bedroom community for families like shooter Adam Lanza’s. Lanza’s father Peter is an executive at General Electric in Stamford. Lanza’s 24-year-old brother Ryan is an accountant at Ernst & Young in Manhattan and now lives in gentrified Hoboken. One of the six-year-old victims was an especially sweet-natured girl of apparent (based on her last name) British Isles ancestry whose articulate father was teaching her Portuguese in his spare time from a well-paying job.
So a major new research report released today detailing the breathtaking increase in child poverty and surprisingly broad-based decrease in several measurements of child welfare in the United States since 2000 is, or at least until Friday was, not really—or rather, not directly—about the children of idyllic Newton and upper-middle-class bedroom communities like it. But it is quite directly about huge swaths of other American children. And its revelations should play a central role in the outcome of what had been, until Friday, the major ongoing news story of the month: the “fiscal cliff” chess game.
The report, called the 2012 National Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI), is this year’s edition of an annual report produced by the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), a national, private philanthropic organization, and the Child and Youth Well-Being Index Project at Duke University.
The introduction explains that the FCD is dedicated to the principle that all families should have the social and material resources to raise their children to be healthy, educated, and productive members of their communities. The annual report is a comprehensive measure of how children are faring in the United States, based on a composite of 28 key Indicators of well-being, grouped into seven Quality-of-Life/Well-Being Domains. These Domains are: Family Economic Well-Being, Safe/Risky Behavior, Social Relationships, Emotional/Spiritual Well-Being, Community Engagement, Educational Attainment, and Health.
The report explains that the CWI tracks changes in these Domains and Indicators, and in the value of the overall Index, compared to 1975 base year values. But this year, for the first time, the report focuses on changes over the last decade, specifically the period from 2001 to 2011. (It also includes some preliminary data from 2011.)
The two bottom-line broad findings derived from several specific ones are striking, I think, not so much independently—neither one surprised me—but instead juxtaposed with each other. After consistent improvements during the 1900s, family economic well-being has deteriorated significantly and consistently since 2001; the deterioration began at the beginning of the decade, not at the beginning of the 2008 economic collapse, which of course did accelerate it. Median family income decreased. Secure employment has decreased. The percentage of children living in poverty has risen substantially. Pre-kindergarten enrollment, which rose during the -90s, has stalled.
Yet that same period saw a fairly dramatic and consistent decline in what the report calls risky behaviors among teenagers and young adults as the decade progressed: “a dramatic reduction in the likelihood of teenagers being victims or perpetrators of violent crime, as well as substantial decreases in teenage childbearing, cigarette smoking, and binge drinking.” (In discussing the crime rate, the report says it was down dramatically among teenagers even in 2011, but notes that that year’s teenagers were young when the major economic downturn began.)
In other words, the blame-the-victim canard cannot be employed convincingly this time around.
We’re speeding headlong into a progressive populist, highly pragmatic, era. The three-decades-long stranglehold of the right, with its deeply unpragmatic, ideology-above-all-else, credo, has been broken, finally, by that ideology’s arch enemy: unequivocal facts that enough people who vote can recognize for themselves.
Dan sez: The three-decades-long stranglehold of the right, with its deeply unpragmatic, ideology-above-all-else, credo, has been broken, finally, by that ideology’s arch enemy: unequivocal facts that enough people who vote can recognize for themselves.
Well, the past decade has convinced me that the rightwing will let nothing interfere with or blunt their ideological thrust, especially facts. I wish I could believe we’ve finally reached a tipping point where sane reason will triumph, but I have SERIOUS doubts.
Opps, sorry, Beverly sez. 🙁
Linking the foul massacre of young innocents to what is your subject de jour.
Forgive me for being rude here but where I come from we call that “pissing in the grave”.
We can all go back to the usual partisan political nonsense after we’ve buried those who died in this tragedy. But in this interim between cruel and obscene murder and the actual laying of the bodies to rest the polite and cultured among us desist from making trite and trivial points about the deaths of children.
Yes, I know, forgive me for losing my temper here. But it is indeed a very long standing human convention that we allow the bodies to cool, the graves to be dug, families to grieve, before we start waving those bloody shrouds in support of whatever trivia has crossed our minds this week.
Quite apart from anything else:
“Poverty is up. Over the past decade, the percentage of children living in families below the poverty line has increased from 15.6 percent in 2001 to 21.4 percent in 2011. “
That statement is untrue.
The true statement is: “the percentage of children living in families below the poverty line before most of the efforts the Federal Government makes to alleviate poverty has increased from 15.6 percent in 2001 to 21.4 percent in 2011.”
Which is another one of those things that really irritates me. The four major poverty alleviation programs in the US are, in order, Medicaid, the EITC, SNAP (ie, food stamps) and Section 8 housing vouchers. There’s near a trillion$ spent on them all.
John Edwards ran on a platform of vastly increasing all four: and he was right, it would have alleviated a lot of poverty. And all (probably at least) would have been good things to do. Heck, Bush increased the EITC and I think he increased SNAP: Obama certainly did.
And the effect on that number you give of 21.4% of children living in poverty?
Nowt, nada, nothing, not a single person, child or babe in arms was lifted out of poverty by that spending. Because in the US system none of those things are recorded as alleviating poverty. The poverty rate is calculated *before* all those things. Not afterwards, like every other country in the world.
I’m annoyed with you and disagree with you because of your ignorance of the things you write about. And you are most certainly at a minimum, as the Russians would say, “nye kulturny” if not worse for piggy backing this on the murder of innocents.
Again, apologies to all for the anger but this sort of thing just isn’t on.
@ Tim W.
you found the piece in bad form, never the less you carried on…
1175–1225; Middle English ipocrite < Old French < Late Latin hypocrita < Greek hypokritḗs a stage actor, hence one who pretends to be what he is not, equivalent to hypokrī́ ( nesthai ) “Hypocrites get offended by the truth.”
No need to apologize for your anger; although, an apology for your verbosity might be in good form and order.
As to the topic of increases in child poverty, these people are not the first to be writing on this topic. Hertz did similar damage in his study Understanding Upward Mobility in America (2006). A few key comments:
– Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top
5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22
– Children born to the middle quintile of parental family income ($42,000 to $54,300)had about the same chance of ending up in a lower quintile than their parents (39.5 percent) as they did of moving to a higher quintile (36.5 percent). Their chances of attaining the top five percentiles of the income distribution were just 1.8 percent.
– Education, race, health and state of residence are four key channels by which economic status is transmitted from parent to child.
– African American children who are born in the bottom quartile are nearly twice as likely to remain there as adults than are white children whose parents had identical incomes, and are four times less likely to attain the top quartile.
– The difference in mobility for blacks and whites persists even after controlling for a host of parental background factors, children’s education and health, as well as whether the household was female-headed or receiving public assistance.
Not much has changed over the years and to add to your chagrin over the study’s stance and Bev’s words, I might add the major fault lies with the lack of sufficient job growth resulting from the skewing of cumulative tax breaks to the minority of household taxpayers making >$500,000 annually. “But then Tim,” who am I?
As to reduction in poverty achieved over the time period of the study, the report would need an established number from the start and review the same numeric over the period of the study. Maybe I missed the study’s control dynamics and your point might well speak to the lack of growth in funding for these programs in keeping up with the growth? In any case are more people slipping backwards (as Hertz points out) and potentially what this study may also portend? How about the reversal of the argument? Is it possible the incomes of this small portion of household taxpayers (>$500,000 annually) has outstripped program growth for fighting poverty percentage wise hmmmm? So many ways of approaching the argument. Even your new “great white hype” Paul Ryan has claimed the Republican Party approach to fighting poverty is “clunky.”
Bev’s words are good and the study stands on its merits which I may review once I feel better.
You know what’s really funny, rustbelt? As Dan knows, last Tuesday I received an email from someone involved with one of the organizations connected with the Report, asking me whether I’d like her to send me a pre-release copy of it; she told me that the report was under embargo and would not be released until the 18th. My initial, incorrect, understanding was that she wanted me and a few other bloggers to write a pre-release blog item about the Report, in order to bring pre-release attention to it. So after she sent me the Report and the Executive Summary of it, I began, intermittently, while also doing other things, to write a blog post about it. This was, of course, at the very height of the fiscal-cliff gamesmanship by the Republicans, and, although you don’t agree, the Report’s findings are important to the issue of taxing policy and spending policy. My intent was to tie the piece into the “fiscal cliff” story.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know when I wrote my initial draft that someone would go on a shooting rampage at an elementary school and kill more than two dozen people, including 20 children. Really. Lanza didn’t tell me his plans.
Before I posted the piece, I emailed the person who had sent me the embargoed Report, and asked her whether I was right in assuming that she was authorizing me (and others) to post about the Report before its official release. She emailed me back saying that, no, I needed to wait to post until after the release of the Report.
As I was finishing the piece, I learned of the shooting rampage, and, like everyone else, was consumed by that news. On Saturday, I rewrote much of it, changing the beginning to say, in essence, that I know that everyone’s mind is on the rampage victims, especially the 20 children, but that this newly released report has some sobering information about a very different, far larger set of children, and the information was vital to taxing and spending policy at issue in the fiscal-cliff talks.
I do understand, rustbelt, that conservatives like you aren’t capable of recognizing even glaring distinctions. Such as that it is hardly an attempt to piggyback on those victims to write that a report about child poverty and related factors had the misfortune of being released at a time when everyone’s thoughts are with those victims–but that the report is important to the wellbeing of a DIFFERENT set of children, and its contents should receive attention during the current fiscal-policy negotiations. It is, in fact, the opposite of piggybacking on the Conn. tragedy, although that is too complex a truth for people who prefer reflexive, Pavolovian reactions to understand; it takes a two-step analysis rather than a one-step one. Too hard for you, rustbelt.
You say you’re angry? So am I. Here’s betting, in fact, that I’m even angrier than you are.
You could, if you weren’t in love with your own way of parsing the universe recognize that people who are receiving welfare are still poor.
It may be that their standard of living has been lifted above “the poverty line” by that welfare. But living on welfare is not the same as “not being poor.”
I hope you can understand this. It would do you good.
OMG. Bill just emailed me and told me that Worstall, not rusty, wrote that comment.
Geeez. Rusty, I’m so sorry. Not sure why I made that mistake. It’s not like it doesn’t SAY “Time Worstall.”
Again … sorry, Tom. And, again, thanks, Bill.
Uh, it says “Tim Worstall,” not “Time Worstall.” But I was pretty upset about my error when I wrote that. And y’all knew who I meant, anyway, right?
I think Tim’s out of character hyperbole is confusing.
I think the note on the census methodology remains conveniently vague…I think coberly nails it well.
I think Tim is a coward for suddenly going silent rather than responding to my comment and, y’know, maybe apologizing. He’s in England. It’s late in the day there. Has he really not read my response to his comment?
What a creep.
The several “anti-poverty” programs that Tim references are needed because of the dire level of poverty in the U.S., as Dale’s comment suggests. Such programs only alleviate the brunt of living in poverty. They do nothing to reduce, or in any way, improve the paid income level of the poor so that such “anti-poverty” programs would not be necessary. One approach soothes the immediate discomfort of poverty. The other would raise the paid income levels of those working poor.