Covid-19 Has Exacerbated Child Poverty, Forcing A Long Overdue Policy Focus

Before Covid-19, the poverty rate in America had been on a slow decline, but the pandemic has stalled—if not reversed—that progress. Among the hardest hit are children from low-income families, where school closures and the high cost of childcare forced previously employed parents to give up their jobs and income to care for their kids. This vicious cycle of poverty among parents and children is becoming an important part of the policy debate in the US and President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 138 nations have closed schools nationally, with many others implementing regional or local closures. Around the world, 80 percent of children’s schooling is impacted by school closures. While closing schools may prevent virus transmission, there is no denying that extended school closures can have a detrimental impact on young children living in poverty and may be intensifying existing disparities.

In the U.S. almost one in every five children lives in poverty, a percentage that is significantly higher than that of adults. African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children are disproportionately affected by poverty. Childhood poverty is linked to a higher incidence of accidents, chronic disease, and mental health issues, with effects that last not just throughout childhood but also throughout one’s life and well into adulthood.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.