51% of U.S. Kids Live in Poverty. Here’s One Real Solution

The U.S. economy is improving, but more public school children than ever are living in poverty. How can we help all of our children succeed? In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity explained that while “people at the top are doing much better…people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.” Not all low-income kids live in unstable homes, but unfortunately many do. These kids come to school hungry, and they go home to situations that aren’t supportive of learning. With more support, these kids could be just as successful as their peers.

Related: Why Kids Can’t Sit Still in Class

The Southern Education Foundation looked at the percentage of kids on the free and reduced lunch program to get a feel for how many U.S. kids live in poverty. Not all kids on this program are living below the poverty line, but it’s a pretty good marker. Their report found that 51 percent of kids in the U.S. live in poverty. Most Kids in Public School Live in Poverty As you can see from the map above, there are more low-income kids living in the South and West United States. In those areas, low-income kids make up as much as 71 percent of the classroom. This shift changes what many public school teachers focus on in the classroom. One Alberquerque teacher described how she begins the morning with her class, where 14 of her 18 kids are low income. She gives them wet wipes and toothbrushes and even stocks a drawer with clean underwear, socks, and clothing for them. So, what does this mean? According to the Southern Education Foundation report, “No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness … Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future.”

If we let these kids fail, we all fail. Schools need to do more to help kids living in poverty succeed. The Washington Post article describes the way one teacher is taking responsibility. The same teacher who helps her class clean up before starting the school day also fosters two girls who go to her school. But we can’t rely on teachers acting independently to address this systemic problem. It’s just not enough. Experts say that we need to be helping impoverished kids before they get to elementary school. One state superintendent suggested to the Washington Post that access to preschool programs could make a big difference. There’s some good data to back that up. Programs like Head Start really can help low-income children keep up with more affluent peers. The Obama administration is even throwing support behind public preschool and asking Congress to approve a federal budget increase to pay for universal preschool. As more kids grow up in poverty, these sorts of programs are going to need more funding. Universal preschool is a good step toward helping all of our children succeed.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

What about the break-down of the family? I think that has a major impact on a child's welfare. Children need a father and a mother in the home so they feel safe and secure. I know there are times when it's not possible.

Magdalena J.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you!

Fran F.
Fran F3 years ago

Thank you

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin3 years ago

What about kids who are already out of preschool? Or elementary? What about they're parents?

Past Member 3 years ago

I know our shelters are full. I make sure the kids get special things... such as flowers (you'd be surprised what a few flowers will do for a kid feeling ostracized) or a little age-appropriate cologne or hair clips... just little things. On Christmas, do they all have stockings? It's a good thing to do, and it's something most people can afford. Even just a smile or a game is welcome. Make sure they know they are important.

Melissa DogLover
Melissa DogLover3 years ago

How terrible :( Poor kids and their families.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants3 years ago

Pam is right.

Pat P.
Pat P3 years ago

It's really sad that too many people on Care 2 are voicing stereotypes about the poor and so little compassion. I am wondering how many of them are republicans, Fox TV watchers or Rush Limbaugh watchers.
There are many reasons why people are poor, either born into poverty, end up there and find it difficult to escape. To assume it is always because they have too many children, don't work hard enough or are on drugs (still worth some sympathy) or some other fault-finding cause--is right out of the republican's politico playbook and very pathetic to hear from people on this site.

The wealthy, mostly, republican politicians want you to focus on those stereotypes and fault the poor for their fate, so that they can take more from them and give it the corporations and the disgustingly rich. Unfortunately, some of you are doing exactly that.

Rika S.
Rika S3 years ago