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Investing in Two Generations for a Poverty-Free Future

Posted by Elena Hernandez at Oct 28, 2014 07:05 AM |
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This is Part I of a new blog series to reignite a conversation about poverty in Washington state. 

In  Washington state, an alarming number of children – two in five – live in families that find it difficult to make ends meet.  When such a high share of children lives with economic hardship, it is a sign not of individual failure but of a deep-rooted crisis in our economy.

The good news is we can fix it.

Economic security is fundamental to the well-being of children and families.  When basic needs are met and families can save for the future, they are more likely to be safe, stable and healthy, the benefits of which ripple throughout communities and the economy.  Conversely, when economic hardship is widespread and families struggle to make ends meet, our communities and economy cannot reach their full potential.

Poverty today is rooted in the challenges of an economy that is not working for parents and children. Numerous factors are responsible: 

  • High income inequality and stagnant wages.  Since 1979, workers have increased their productivity by 52 percent, but their wages only gained 3 percent and overall compensation just 8 percent.  During this same time period, the top 1 percent of Washingtonians experienced income gains of 222 percent, while everyone else has seen just a 14 percent increase (1).
  • Unaffordable child care and housing.  A single parent with two kids could spend over $1800 for housing and child care in Washington.  Since the three most common jobs in our state pay about $1800 a month in total, this presents a real challenge for children and families. 
  • A tax system that takes a bigger share of income from the poor than the rich. Low income families in Washington state pay upwards of 17 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes.  The top 1 percent of Washingtonians pay 3 percent of their incomes.
  • Crumbling roads and other battered infrastructure.  Washington state relies on the people who are least able to pay to sustain our revenue system, which, as it turns out is not sustainable at all.  As a result, all areas of our state budget have been impacted, from roads and bridges to public health infrastructure and education.

The status quo is unacceptable. It is high-time we invest in solutions that create an economy that works for all Washingtonians.  Investing in two generations – children and their parents – is a critical step to getting us there. 

The well-being of children is dependent on the well-being of parents, and vice-versa.  When a family has their basic needs met and can invest in their future, everyone benefits.

In the coming weeks, we will highlight how policies and programs can support two generations for one future where everyone has the chance to prosper.

Source: (1)Labor productivity and wages: BP&C and EPI analysis of unpublished total economy data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Productivity and costs program; employment data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics; and Bureau of Economic Analysis, State/National Income and Product Accounts public data series.  Income inequality: Economic Policy Institute (2014) The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality 1917-2011.


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