FOR a growing number of American children, the budding promise of youth may be blighted by hunger, homelessness, and family instability.
A new Census Bureau report shows that one out of every five children - and one of every four preschoolers - lives in poverty. In 1990 alone, the number of poor children grew by nearly 850,000. A comparable increase in 1991 would put the number of children in poverty at its highest level since 1965.
These figures are shocking, embarrassing, and unacceptable. They are higher than those of seven other Western nations: Australia, Canada, West Germany, Norway, Sweden, England, and Switzerland.
The census findings refute old stereotypes that child poverty primarily affects minorities, urban residents, and large families. As the Children's Defense Fund points out, poor white children outnumber poor black children. More poor children live outside cities than in them. And most poor families have just one or two children.
The need to improve the economic well-being of the youngest Americans is often framed in pragmatic terms. …