Just two weeks after the Census Bureau released devastating new statistics showing the largest numbers of Americans ever -- 43.6 million -- living in poverty, more details were revealed this week focused on the epicenter of this crisis: children living in poverty.
According to the Bureau's new report, 46 states and the District of Columbia experienced increased childhood poverty rates over the last year, with an alarming national rate of 1 in 5 kids affected. In the deep South, where the poverty crisis is at its worst, that number reaches levels as high as 1 in 3 kids.
This translates to kids at risk of educational and health deficiencies that will stay with them their entire lives, depriving America of great human potential and reducing our competitiveness even further in the coming decades.
- Four year olds from poor families are 18 months behind other four year olds developmentally.
- The average cognitive scores of preschool-aged children from the wealthiest families are 60 percent above those of low-income children.
- There is an average of one book for every 300 kids in a low-income neighborhood. In a middle-class neighborhood, there are 13 books for every child.
The solution to closing these gaps is not new -- it's as old as the classroom. Indeed, a rich education is proven to be the silver bullet in helping kids rise out of poverty. Just last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the unemployment gap between high school and college graduates doubled since the recession began, once again proving the power of education as an economic shield.
Still, vital legislation that better funds early childhood education, in-school nutrition programs and other key investments that can begin to reverse this epidemic remains in limbo and at the mercy of a lame-duck session of Congress later this year.
The drumbeat of childhood poverty statistics continues to pound unabated. Now more than ever, this drumbeat must be heard.