Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Let Poor Children Form the Ark of Clinton's New Covenant

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Let Poor Children Form the Ark of Clinton's New Covenant

Article excerpt

Next week a new administration takes office and a lot of Americans, especially some of the most impoverished among us, are looking toward that change with more hope than they have been able to muster for going on a generation. No matter how wet the blanket the Clinton crowd tugs over campaign expectations, the expectations are still there, and rightly so.

Much of the social engine needs fixing in the wake of the Reagan-Bush years, from health care to housing, but there is no wrong more shameful, no indictment of what we have become as a nation more telling than the outrageous number of American children living in poverty. Fix that, and much of the rest will follow; fail to fix it, and what follows most of us will not want.

Overall, according to a 1991 U.S. Census Bureau study, poverty in the United States is more severe and more widely distributed among all age groups than in any other industrialized nation. But children are the most vulnerable, and they bear far more than their share of the deprivation.

Between 1979 and 1989, for example, there was a 21 percent leap in child poverty, a trend the Children's Defense Fund says will only worsen in the current decade unless we move now to stop it.

In 1990, according to the CDF, 40 percent of children in families headed by someone under 30 lived in poverty, about double the percentage in 1973. As far as those children are concerned -- and we are talking about millions of them -- the Reagan boom years never happened.

Of the 3.5 million additional children condemned to poverty during the 1979-83 recession years, to use another CDF example, only slightly more than a million were lifted above the poverty line in the economic recovery that followed. rest are still mired in misery, join these past few years by brothers and sisters almost beyond telling. Whatever weak recovery may be under way at

the moment will work no wonders for them.

Black, white, Latino -- no child is immune. The white non-Latino poverty rate rocketed from 12.1 to 27.2 percent in less than 20 years, 1973-90. Latin rates are outpacing even that. Of all Latino children, more than a third live in poverty. …

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