Prevalences, Penalties and Child Poverty in the United States

David Brady , University of California, Riverside
Regina Baker, University of Pennsylvania
Ryan Finnigan, University of California, Davis

Using recent LIS data on 28 rich democracies and on the U.S. 1974-2016, we assess the relative importance of the four main risk factors for child poverty: unemployment, low education, young headship, and single motherhood. We decompose these risks into prevalences and penalties. The U.S. has unusually high child poverty despite average prevalences. However, the U.S. has relatively high penalties. Child poverty in the U.S. has been stable at a high level since 1974 despite substantial declines in the prevalences of three of the four risks. This stability partly results from rising penalties for unemployment and low education. The prevalence of single motherhood increased slightly while the penalty declined. We simulate how much U.S. child poverty would decline with counterfactual prevalences and penalties. In every simulation, the U.S. would still have child poverty rates higher than the cross-national mean.

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 Presented in Session 227. International Evidence on Poverty and Social Policy