It seemed like a blustery overpromise when President Joe Biden pledged in July to oversee “the largest ever one-year decrease in child poverty in the history of the United States”. By the end of the year, however, he will probably turn out to have been correct. Recent modelling by scholars at Columbia University estimates that in July child poverty was 41% lower than normal.
America has long tolerated an anomalously high rate of poverty among children relative to other advanced countries—depending on how it is measured, somewhere between one in six or one in five children counted as poor. The reason why is not mysterious. The safety-net has always been thinnest for the country’s youngest: America spends a modest 0.6% of gdp on child and family benefits compared with the oecd average of 2.1%. What would happen if this were to change? The rush of cash Congress made available to cushion the economic fallout of covid-19 provided an experiment.