In the world of politics, problems like poverty are sometimes described in sweeping, black-and-white terms designed to make solutions seem straightforward and even easy.
But in the real world of policymaking, solutions are in fact more complex, involving many facets of life and sectors of the community.
That’s why it’s encouraging to see solid research on child poverty that emphasizes not just the economic factors affecting this sad situation, but the family and community aspects, as well.
The “Kids Count” report, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is one of the most widely cited surveys of child well-being in the U.S. Its most recent update, released last week, paints a mixed picture of how kids are faring in America today.
On one hand, the percentage of kids growing up in poverty — a key threat to healthy child development — is up significantly as families have been hard-hit by recession. More than one in five kids live below the poverty line, and a third of kids live in a home in which neither parent has secure employment.
On the other hand, children have made long-term progress in education and health, with high school graduation rates and certain measures of reading ability at an all time high. (There is still plenty of room for improvement: one in four high school students don’t graduate on time, and two thirds of fourth graders can’t read proficiently.)
Teen substance abuse and child mortality rates are also down significantly, as is the percentage of kids without health insurance.