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California Lawmakers and Advocates are Prioritizing Child Poverty

Poverty & Family Economics

The child poverty rate in the U.S. remains extremely high: nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. are living below the poverty line and children are 69 percent more likely to be living in poverty than adults. Yet among the many pressing social issues facing our country, child poverty often gets overlooked.

That is why it is notable that in California, state legislators, advocates, and researchers have come together to prioritize reducing the number of children and families experiencing poverty in California.

In early March, Assembly Bill 1520, the Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty Act of 2017, was introduced by Assemblywoman Autumn R. Burke (D-Marina Del Ray).  This legislation would commit the California State Legislature to cut California’s child poverty rate in half within 20 years as well as providing a comprehensive framework of research-backed solutions to reach this target.

California has the highest rate of child poverty in the country when taking into account cost of living expenses. Child poverty targets have proven successful as a strategy for reducing child poverty because they provide a mechanism for advocates, media, and the public to hold the government accountable to take action and come up with a strategy to meet the target.

In 1999, the United Kingdom established a national child poverty target, which was supported by both the Conservative and Labour parties. Measured in U.S. terms, the UK’s Child Poverty Target and resulting policy changes successfully cut the UK’s absolute child poverty rate by 50 percent during the effort’s first decade. The UK successfully raised incomes, promoted work, and improved child well-being while U.S. progress in these areas stagnated.

In the U.S., Connecticut and Vermont both prioritized reducing child poverty through establishing state child poverty targets and the city of Cincinnati recently established a Child Poverty Collaborative with the goal of moving 10,000 children out of poverty within 5 years.

There has also been national legislation in the U.S. to introduce a child poverty target – last Congressional session, the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2015 proposed establishing a national target to cut the child poverty rate in half within 10 years and eliminate it within 20 years. First Focus Campaign for Children and members of the Child Poverty Action Group are working with Congressional offices to get this legislation reintroduced this session.

There is growing momentum around AB 1520 in California, including a rally on Sunday, April 9th featuring House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA-5th) and several other California federal and state lawmakers.

First Focus Campaign for Children has endorsed AB 1520. We applaud lawmakers and advocates in California for setting an example for the nation with this landmark legislation and urge others as well both in and outside California to support AB 1520 and take action: