The nation's child poverty rate is an important indicator of well-being for children, families and our country as a whole. Poverty has a profoundly negative impact on children's educational achievement and puts them at a greater risk of experiencing chronic health conditions. Child poverty costs our society an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and earnings, as well as health- and crime-related costs.
This issue brief analyzes the official poverty measure created half a century ago. It falls short of accurately estimating current needs and fails to account for the impact of the largest antipoverty programs. Federal, state and local governments provide important investments in the nation's future by supporting the healthy development, education, nutrition and safety of children. Yet the official rate does not give us the information we need to determine whether those investments are working. When investing public dollars, policymakers need to know how effective current policies are in reducing poverty and should use the best measurement available.