Today, when most people think of poverty they do not think of nations like the United States and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, these two countries face serious problems regarding child poverty. Up to 20% of children in the U.S. live in poverty, while the United Kingdom faces some of the world’s highest child poverty rates. In spite of being two of the world’s wealthiest nations, both nations are struggling to address the causes of child poverty.
Leading Causes of Child Poverty
Of the many root causes of child poverty, most sources point to an absence of one parent, particularly the father, as having the greatest impact on a child’s future. In the U.K., 23% of children in two parent families live in poverty, while over 40% of children in single parent households fall into the same category. As women generally earn less in the same professions as men, children in single parent households where the father is absent face an even higher rate of poverty.
Children living with only their mother are
- 5 times more likely to live in poverty
- 9 times more likely to drop out of school
- 37% more likely to abuse drugs
- 2 times more likely to be incarcerated
- 2.5 times more likely to become a teen parent
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
- 32 times more likely to run away
Ethnicity has also been linked to higher child poverty rates in both the U.S. and the U.K. Part of the reason for the correlation between ethnicity and child poverty in the U.S. is due to the level of crime in minority communities. Not only are families in these communities more likely to be the victims of crime, but they are also more likely to have a parent, more often the father, incarcerated than families in areas with less crime. A child whose father has been incarcerated is five to seven times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime.
Although unemployment is a major contributor to child poverty, it is not the only problem. In any economy, poor adults often find they are forced to take dead-end jobs, without advancement opportunities, while middle management and other placements are given to college graduates whose families could afford higher education. In these situations, the wage-earning adult from a poor family is only offered part-time work or the position they currently occupy pays too low a salary and the family suffers.
Clearly, the issues related to child poverty are not limited only to less developed nations. Indeed, child poverty rates are surprisingly high in the world’s most developed nations, including the U.S. and the U.K. If we are unable to address these issues in our own countries, how are we to act as role models for the rest of the world?
– Herman Watson
Sources: Child Poverty Action Group, The Future of Children, Fight Poverty, The Guardian, Barnardo’s