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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Disturbingly High Fraction of American Kids in School are Poor

The Southern Education Foundation released a report this week showing that a majority of children in American schools are low-income. The data themselves are from the National Center for Education Statistics and refer not exactly to income levels, but rather to eligibility for free school lunches. As the New York Times points out, the US Department of Agriculture has loosened the eligibility for the school lunch program, but this high percentage of students is still disturbing. There are two things going on here which, in all likelihood, contribute to the problem of children living in low income families. The first is immigration. Immigrant families, especially undocumented immigrants from Latin America, have increase odds of being below the poverty live. This largely explains the high poverty rate in California. But the second reason is more insidious and it recalled to me an article that Justin Stoler pointed out to me a few days ago in the Upshot blog of the NYTimes about marriage
A quarter of today’s young adults will have never married by 2030, which would be the highest share in modern history, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet both remaining unmarried and divorcing are more common among less-educated, lower-income people. Educated, high-income people still marry at high rates and are less likely to divorce
Those whose lives are most difficult could benefit most from marriage, according to the economists who wrote the new paper, John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics and Shawn Grover of the Canadian Department of Finance. “Marriage may be most important when there is that stress in life and when things are going wrong,” Mr. Grover said.
An increasing fraction of children are growing in one-parent (usually a mother without the father) family. Marriage (defined broadly here as two adults living together as a family) is the foundation of every human society and children growing up without that kind of emotional and financial support are going to be at a disadvantage. It doesn't mean that they are doomed, but it does mean that life is going to be a bigger struggle than it should have been. If you are thinking about having sex, but aren't thinking about getting married, then you should be using contraceptives--no matter what the Pope might say


  1. I associate this with the disintegration of the nuclear family. Is there any way of doubting that if more of these children lived in two-parent households there would be less child poverty?

  2. All of which is to say I agree with you. Sorry for not finishing the thought.