SF Chronicle Stories

Ewald (ewald@ctaz.net)
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 10:18:03 -0700


Kids Under 6 are hardest hit...

By Ramon G. McLeod, Chronicle Staff Writer

At least one-fourth of the nation's children under

6 years of age live in poverty, a rate that is significantly higher

han those for children in Canada and Western Europe, according to a

new analysis of the nation's impoverished children.

A study released today by the Columbia University-based

National Center for Children in Poverty also found that suburban

poverty is increasing much faster than urban poverty and that the risk

of poverty for children in traditional families has more than doubled

over the past two decades.

Poverty rates for children under 6 have climbed from 18

percent in 1979 to 25 percent in 1994.

This puts the United States well ahead of the United Kingdom,

which had a child poverty rate of about 19 percent in 1991, the last

full year data are available. Other Western European rates ranged

from 2.1 percent for Finland to 11.1 percent for Spain.

"Basically, there are policies and programs in other

industrial nations that ensure children against poverty better than

those in the U.S.," said Neal Bennett, who helped produce the study

for the National Center for Children in Poverty.

The rise in single motherhood is often blamed for the nation's

increasing child poverty rates, but it is not as simple as that.

European nations have much higher out-of-wedlock birthrates than the

United States but lower child poverty.

The European social welfare system may account for this

difference, but so, too, may a difference in patterns of child births.

For example, in the United States, teenage birthrates are at

least twice as high as in Western European nations. Children born to

teenage parents are at the highest risk of poverty wherever they live.

The poverty center's data did not include 1995, but in reviewing

trends from the 1960s through the early 1990s, it found that suburban

poverty rates have increased nearly 60 percent between 1975 and 1994.

During the same period, urban poverty increased 34 percent.

The poverty center study also found that 6 percent of young

white children were extremely poor in 1994, compared with 30 percent

of young black children. Extreme poverty was defined as living in a

family with income that was 50 percent lower than the federal poverty

threshold. In 1994, extreme poverty amounted to $7,571 for a family

of four.

Poverty rates for a children in two-parent families rose from

6 percent in 1975 to 15 percent in 1994.



Memo to Pols:

'The Safety Net Delivers'

AGAIN AND AGAIN during the fight over welfare we heard

self-righteous, sanctimonious and often very rich politicians proclaim

that anti-poverty programs hadn't worked. The programs were actually

arming the poor, they said. Echoing Dickens' most unforgiving

villains, they reasoned that the best approach would be to cut the

poor's already meager benefits. That would build character, they said.

So they cut the benefits and called it reform.

On Saturday, in his radio address, President Clinton reaffirmed

his solidarity with those who believe that removing a plate of spaghetti

from the dinner table of a hungry child is somehow beneficial.

president spoke of his "moral obligation" to help the poor help

themselves. "The door has now been opened to a new era of freedom and

independence," Clinton said, an apparent reference to the sense of

liberation that the well-off have always associated with bare cupboards

and eviction notices.

In any event, the message of the president and others is quite

clear: It is time to take the scissors to the safety net.

comes a study that shows how important government programs continue

to be in helping Americans escape the dangerous and demoralizing grasp

of poverty.

The study was done by the Center on Budget and Policy

Priorities and its findings are not ambiguous: "Based on analysis of

recently released Census Bureau data, this paper shows that federal

and state anti-poverty programs have lifted millions of children and

disabled and elderly people out of poverty. Many of those who

remained poor were significantly less poor than they would have been

without government assistance."

The study found that without such assistance, 57.6 million

people would have been poor in 1995. "But when benefits are counted,

including food stamps, housing assistance, school lunch support and

benefits provided through the Earned-Income Tax Credit, the number

of poor people drops to 30.3 million."

Safety net programs, especially Social Security, held the

poverty rate among the elderly in 1995 to 9 percent. Without them,

the study said, the elderly's poverty rate would have been 50 percent.

Among children, means-tested programs, including Aid to

Families with Dependent Children, have the biggest effect. The

study said: "The safety net programs reduced the child poverty rate

from 24 percent before benefits are counted to 16 percent."

The lead author of the study, entitled "The Safety Net

Delivers," was Wendell Primus, a former assistant secretary of

health and human services who left the Clinton administration in

protest when the president signed the welfare bill.

Primus and his co-authors took a close look at two recent

periods: the early 1980s, when government anti-poverty benefits

were substantially reduced, and the mid-'80s to mid-'90s, when

bipartisan efforts to increase government assistance and expand the

Earned-Income Tax Credit strengthened the safety net.

Recessions occurred during both periods. The study found

that when benefits are taken into account, "The number of people who

were poor grew by 11 million during the recession of the early 1980s

but by only 5.5 million during the recession of the early 1990s.

Poverty grew far less during the most recent recession because the

safety net was considerably stronger in the early-1990s."

In other words, the programs worked.

But we now have, for the poor, the toxic combination of Bill

Clinton in the White House and the Republican Party in control of

Congress. The next recession will provide tremendous opportunities

for character-building. (N.Y. Times Service)

"Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are rather forced
upon them from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long
time been no guarantee of thier security. They do not exist because they
have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have
become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them
will meet with the violent resistance of the populace."

--Rudolf Rocker (Anarcho-Syndicalism, 1938)
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