Tuesday, July 28, 2015

U.S. needs better jobs to curb childhood poverty

U.S. economic numbers have been looking better for workers. But statistics don't always tell the whole story. And that's certainly the case when it comes to childhood poverty in America.

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that despite the fact nearly 3 million jobs were created in the U.S. in 2014 and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent in June -- a seven-year low -- there are now more kids living in poverty than during the Great Recession.
Income inequality is putting our children at risk. As it stands, about 22 percent of American kids lived below the poverty line in 2013, compared with 18 percent in 2008, according to the 2015 Kids Count Data Book. The problem, quite frankly, is there aren't enough good-paying jobs being created, as the report details:
[T]here are some worrisome economic indicators for families in the bottom half of the income scale, particularly African Americans and Latinos. Although new job growth has occurred at all wage levels, it has been disproportionate in low-wage sectors, such as retail and food services, and in some of the lower-wage positions within health care and home care. And, a stagnating federal minimum wage has exacerbated low wages.
The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,624. Frankly, it is preposterous to think any family can make it on a salary even closely resembling that level. But that is where America finds itself today -- 18.7 million kids living in poverty. And the problem is even worse for select minority groups. Thirty-nine percent of African American kids live in poverty, while 37 percent of Native American and 33 percent of Latino children do as well.

This country needs to attack this problem head on, and it begins with creating better-paying jobs for workers. A recent report by the Roosevelt Institute details how both government and the business community can work better together to create them. That, however, will require cooperation by those parties -- something that seems in short supply.

Lawmakers, however, could also choose to invest in this country and its workers by improving the nation's infrastructure network. This could create millions of jobs building roads, rail systems, energy plants and the like. Many of these jobs would be good union jobs that pay a middle-class wage. And when the U.S. is union strong, it makes America stronger.

This nation shouldn't accept the current level of poverty, especially for our children. They deserve better. It's time to do something about it.