Tuesday’s State of the Union address will apparently focus on issues of wealth inequality in the United States. The impact of poverty is extremely important for issues such as housing, nutrition, health and safety. Additionally, education researchers like me have been hollering from the rooftops, hoping policymakers and others will understand that poverty is the biggest impediment to children’s academic success. So this focus is long overdue and certainly welcome. Yet I worry that the president will slip from an accurate diagnosis to unproven and ineffectual treatments.
The diagnosis is straightforward. I expect that the president will have no trouble describing enormous and increasing wealth gaps. We learned from Oxfam last week that “the world’s 85 richest people own the same amount as the bottom half of the entire global population,” which is over 7 billion people.
In the United States, the picture is just as shocking. In a 2013 UNICEF report on child poverty in 35 developed countries, the United States came in 34th, second to last–between Bulgaria and Romania, two much poorer countries overall. Twenty-three percent (23%) of children in the US live in poverty.