Why Spotlight Poverty and Opportunity?
In the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, nearly 43.6 million people live in poverty, which for a family of four means an annual income of less than $22,100 a year. During the Great Recession millions fell below the poverty line for the first time. The country’s slow economic recovery and continuing high unemployment have resulted in record numbers of families struggling to put enough food on the table and pay for housing, health care and other basic needs.
American poverty disproportionately affects children, with more than 15 million now growing up in impoverished homes. Other industrialized nations do much better. Among 24 developed nations, children in America, along with those in Greece and Italy, suffer the greatest inequalities in health, education and material well-being.
Reducing poverty is not only a moral imperative, it is vital to our nation’s well-being. Children who grow up poor too often become adults who cannot contribute effectively to our economic productivity, put a burden on the public health system or enter the criminal justice system. Economists estimate that child poverty costs the nation about $500 billion a year.
As our nation struggles to turnaround a troubled economy marked by high deficits and understandable public anxiety, reducing poverty will require an especially creative and vigilant approach to policy.Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity will be there during this critical time to ensure that those confronting ongoing joblessness and economic insecurity are not left out of the discussion.