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Estimating the Economic Cost of Childhood Poverty in the United States

Poverty has been an issue of ongoing concern for social work practitioners and researchers over the decades. The societal impact of poverty on a broad range of problems is widely acknowledged throughout the field. However, one vital piece of information regarding poverty has often been missing—its economic cost. This study presents new estimates into the annual costs of childhood poverty in the United States by updating earlier research and including previously unmeasured costs. Cost-measurement analysis indicates that the annual aggregate cost of U.S. child poverty is $1.0298 trillion, representing 5.4% of the gross domestic product. 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. In addition, it is estimated that for every dollar spent on reducing childhood poverty, the country would save at least seven dollars with respect to the economic costs of poverty. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Citation

McLaughlin, M., & Rank, M. R. (2018). Estimating the economic cost of childhood poverty in the United States. Social Work Research, 42(2), 73–83. doi:10.1093/swr/svy007