By Carina Nixon, Staff Attorney with CHILD USA.

Child Trends recently released a study finding that, between 1993 and 2019—a span of only 26 years—the number of children living in poverty in the United States was reduced by more than half (59% to be exact).  The study noted that the “magnitude of this decline in child poverty is unequaled in the history of poverty measurements in the United States.”  This decrease occurred in every state and among every racial and ethnic group.

By the New York Times.  Sources: Child Trends; U.S. Census Bureau; Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

CHILD USA believes this is an incredible starting point, but our ultimate goal is the complete eradication of child poverty in the United States.  One way we can move towards this is by ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The CRC is a landmark global agreement on child human rights that was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on November 20, 1989.  It establishes the basic human rights that all children deserve and that all governments should protect throughout the world.  This includes the right to an adequate standard of living, or in other words, freedom from poverty.

According to the United Nations (U.N.), poverty cannot simply be defined as a lack of income and resources.  Poverty also fundamentally includes the issues it creates, such as “hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.”  The U.N. also recognizes poverty as the “root cause” of some of the most serious human rights violations against children, including forced child labor and human trafficking. 

The Child Trends study agrees with the U.N.’s conclusions, noting that “poverty is unequivocally linked” with its negative effects on children, often severely impacting “children’s health, academic achievement, social-emotional functioning, and long-term well-being and economic success.”  And, as the study importantly pointed out, these effects do not only disadvantage the child—they hinder our entire nation.  Children are “our nation’s future workers, leaders, taxpayers, parents, and neighbors.”  Investment in a prosperous social and economic future for them is an investment in all of us.

With so much at stake, CHILD USA calls on United States legislators to build on and accelerate this remarkable period of child poverty reduction by ratifying the CRC.


Here’s why ratification is so important:

  1. The Child Trends study found that the increase in government social safety net programs was the biggest reason child poverty decreased so rapidly between 1993 and 2019. The CRC requires its ratifiers to provide social safety net programs to children, “particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing, and housing.”  The CRC also mandates that “every child [has] the right to benefit from social security.”
  2. The Child Trends study revealed that stable parental employment was another leading factor in reducing child poverty. The CRC supports parental employment by directing its ratifiers to “ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities.”
  3. The Child Trends study additionally found that a reduction in teen births lead to 52% of the decline in deep poverty rates for children. The CRC promotes this reduction by establishing a child’s freedom to control their own health and body.  To promote this freedom, ratifiers should provide children with sexual and reproductive health education and services, family planning services, safe abortion services, and post-abortion care.

By ratifying the CRC, the United States would be accountable to the international community for upholding these essential child rights.  This, in turn, would strongly encourage the United States to maintain and implement social policies that continue contributing to, instead of counteracting, the current decline in child poverty.

Over 30 years after its adoption, the United States is the only country that has signed, but not ratified, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our children shouldn’t have to wait any longer for their government to recognize their basic human right to be free from poverty—legislators must push for CRC ratification now.