The Tavis Smiley Show's "Poverty in America" – Children and Education
16.5 million American children live in poverty. That's more than any other first-world nation.
Story from The Tavis Smiley Show. Listen to audio above for full report.
About 21 percent of all American children — almost 16.5 million in total — live in poverty.
That's more than in any other first-world country, even when adjusted to account for population differences.
"Every poor long-term outcome you can imagine is connected to poverty," McCarthy says. "Educational failure, long-term unemployment as adults, involvement with the criminal justice or juvenile justice system, mental health problems, substance-abuse problems."
For children especially, poverty is a vicious cycle. Teen pregnancy is five times more common among children who grow up in poverty than those who don't. The U.S. Department of Education tracks over 2,000 schools in traditionally impoverished areas that consistently underperform. And minoritiy children in poverty are even more unlikely to succeed.
The statistics are worse for traditionally disadvantaged groups such as Blacks, Latinos, and children of single parents. About 1 in every 3 Latino or Black children are impoverished.
About 6 million children in poverty are age 6 or younger. Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Educational Association, said a child's earliest years of development, the pre-k years, are most important.
"We know from every single study and every factor you want to measure, that if kids don't have that good solid pre-k before entering school, they are going to be behind," Van Roekel says. "If they start behind before age five, there's no way they're going to catch up."
Van Roekel said more homeless children are entering public schools than ever before. Many kids also come to school without proper healthcare. At the same time, public schools face major budget cuts — forcing teachers to take on larger classes and leading to cuts in after-school programs.
"We have more kids who need more things and less people to do it," Van Roekel says. "It has to impact what's going on for them each and every day."
"The Tavis Smiley Show" is a weekly show offering a unique blend of news and newsmakers in expanded conversations, along with feature reports and regular commentators. "The Tavis Smiley Show" is produced by Tavis Smiley productions, and distributed nationwide by PRI.