How Britain Reduced Child Poverty

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Jared Bernstein and Mark Greenberg have a good op-ed in the Washington Post today discussing Tony Blair’s plan, introduced in 1999, to eliminate child poverty in Britain by 2020. How did it fare? Well, over the past five years child poverty in the country has dropped 17 percent—below the government’s target, sure, but still pretty dramatic. Over the same time period, child poverty in the United States has risen 12 percent, to 13 million.

So why don’t we have the same sort of national plan here? Well, the short answer is because we have a corrupt Republican administration in power that doesn’t really care about poor children and the like. But this one bit from the op-ed, on the power of simply declaring a national goal, is good: “What if you don’t end child poverty by the targeted date of 2020, we asked [British policymakers]. The question didn’t really interest them. The target, they argued, focused the minds of the politicians, the agencies and the public. Without it, they would never have gotten as far as they have.” I hear there’s a minority party out there in search of a grand sweeping “vision,” and like Bernstein and Greenberg say, what’s wrong with this one?

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