Silent crisis: 1 in 5 American kids is poor

Story highlights

  • John Sutter talks child poverty with the CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • 1 in 5 kids in the United States lives below the federal poverty line
  • Among rich countries, the U.S. ranks second to last for its rate of child poverty
  • Detroit has a staggering child poverty rate of 59%; Cleveland, 54%
I know, I know, I know. There's enough bad news in the world. You don't want to hear any more of it from me. But #sorrynotsorry. I'm here to bombard you with another catastrophe that isn't making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the richest country in the world.
Don't get too panicked, though, because this is a crisis with tangible solutions. Twenty percent of American kids live in poverty, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, which considers a family of four living on less than $23,624 to be poor. The United States actually has the second-highest rate of child poverty in the rich world, according to a 2013 report from UNICEF. Only Romania fares worse.
But after chatting Tuesday morning with Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which publishes the helpful Kids Count reports on child poverty and funds solutions, I'm left with the sense that this is a slow-drip crisis that can be stopped.
I talked with McCarthy, who is started his career as a psychiatric social worker and holds a doctorate in social work and social research, as a primer for an upcoming Change the List project on child poverty in the United States. You voted for me to cover this topic as part of that reader-driven series, which focuses on bottom-of-the-list places and issues.
John D. Sutter