Brain development/Law/Policy Brown School

Childhood poverty costs U.S. $1.03 trillion in a year, study finds

Total amounts to 28 percent of the federal budget

From the WashU Newsroom

Childhood poverty cost $1.03 trillion in 2015, about 5.4 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

These costs are clustered around the loss of economic productivity, increased health and crime costs, and increased costs as a result of child homelessness and maltreatment, finds the study, “Estimating the Economic Cost of Childhood Poverty in the United States,” published March 30 in the journal Social Work Research.“Impoverished children grow up having fewer skills and are thus less able to contribute to the productivity of the economy,” said Mark R. Rank, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare and one of the country’s foremost experts on income inequality. “They are also more likely to experience frequent health care problems and to engage in crime. These costs are borne by the children themselves, but ultimately by the wider society as well.”

Rank co-authored the study with Michael McLaughlin, doctoral student at the Brown School.

“It is estimated that for every dollar spent on reducing childhood poverty, the country would save at least $7 with respect to the economic costs of poverty,” Rank said.

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