War on Poverty: Child Well-Being 50 Years Later

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty in his State of the Union Address. Fifty years later, how have American children fared? Fair Start: Rich Get Richer While Working Families Struggle • In 2012, child poverty was 5 percent lower than in 1964 but 64 percent higher than the lowest recorded level — 14 percent in 1969 — and 21 percent higher than before the recession. The Black-White ratio for child poverty decreased 26 percent from 1964 to 2012. Black children remained three times more likely than White children to be poor in 2012. • Income inequality has increased dramatically. The top 1 percent of earners received 22.5 percent of the nation’s income in 2012, more than double their share in 1964 and equal to levels last seen in the 1920s. • The federal minimum wage is now worth 22 percent less in inflation-adjusted terms than in 1964. In no state can an individual working full-time at the minimum wage afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental unit and have enough for food, utilities and other necessities. Head Start: Progress and Peril • The percent of children living in single-parent households more than doubled between 1964 and 2012 and in 2012 children in single-parent families were nearly four times more likely to be poor than children in married-couple families. While the Black-White ratio decreased 35 percent. Black children are more than twice as likely as White children to live with only one parent. • Teen births have been cut nearly in half since 1970 and the Black-White ratio has decreased by a quarter since 1980. The U.S. teen birth rate is the second highest among industrialized countries. • The percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool or kindergarten more than quintupled between 1964 and 2012. • There are 19 percent more high school graduates and 162 percent more college graduates and Black-White gaps have decreased substantially. However, a majority of fourth and eighth graders remained unable to read or compute at grade level in 2013 and there are large achievement gaps by income and race. School segregation by race and income continues to be the norm.   An excerpt from the Children’s Defense Fund report The State of America’s Children 2014

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