Children, families and poverty: definitions, trends, emerging science and implications for policy. Social Policy Report

J. Lawrence Aber, Pamela Morris, C. Cybele Raver, Child Development Society for Research in

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Now, more than ever, it is crucial to address the topic of children and poverty in the U.S., given current scientific knowledge about poverty's influence on children and effective strategies to mitigate its negative impact. In this report, we summarize the best available information on definitions and trends in child poverty, policy responses to child poverty and the impact of poverty on children's health and development. Research suggests that various factors exert upward and downward pressure on child poverty rates. Upward pressure is exerted by declining work rates for men, stagnant wages for low-wage workers, increasing rates of children raised in female-headed households, and growing gaps in educational attainment. Downward pressure is exerted by the U.S. system of antipoverty policies and programs, which appears to be cutting "pre-transfer" poverty rates by more than 50%. Nonetheless, child poverty rates in the United States are high by both historical and international comparison. We then review the emerging science on biological and ecological processes by which poverty affects child development and key findings regarding the efficacy of comprehensive strategies to reduce poverty and to promote the human capital development of poor children. In the final section, we reflect on implications for moving forward in science and policy. (Contains 1 figure, 2 tables, and 1 footnote.) Commentaries from Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant, Eugene E. Garcia, and Ron Haskins are included. Commentaries are individually referenced.]
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberPublication of the Society for Research in Child Development
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Policy Report
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Educational Attainment
  • Family (Sociological Unit)
  • Human Capital
  • Child Development
  • Definitions
  • Poverty
  • Public Policy
  • Trend Analysis
  • Child Health
  • Biology
  • Scientific Research
  • Environmental Influences


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