The popularity of “Child Poverty”

Over the past decade or so, this human rights cause “flavour of the month” called “child poverty” has been in style as something to say and for human rights groups and politicians to champion. Before that, we only had “poverty”, until sometime in the late ’90s, when someone discovered “child poverty”, and now it’s all the rage, and everyone’s talking about it.

The nice thing, is that it made poverty go away. No one has poverty anymore. We only have child poverty now. Images of starving children living in squalor with no education, no running water and no Nintendo while their Ivy League fatcat parents live on caviar and crumpets served with china and silverware and playing World of Warcraft on their X-boxes. Down with fatcat parents!

Of course, that isn’t true, but that is the image it conjures up for me. I just want to ask: when we speak of “child poverty”, don’t we just mean “poverty”? Why do we need to separate the poverty of children from the poverty of the entire family they came from? Doesn’t fixing poverty for children mean fixing poverty for their families?

It also turns out, but you have to do some digging in Google to see it, that there are other kinds of poverty that are up and coming on the poverty hit parade. There is also “elderly poverty” and “working age poverty”. You know, children living high on the hog while the parents have to beg for scraps. I think that’s how it works … In addition, “working age poverty” can still mean children in some parts of the world.

These are not so popular, even though those in “working age poverty” are likely to be parents of children living in “child poverty”, whose grandparents live in “elderly poverty”. Indeed, poverty has become a complicated science. After all, you can’t just “redistribute wealth” because “socialism has failed”. It failed because no one in charge wanted it to succeed. At any rate, social safety nets are soooo ’70’s!

I don’t wish to make light of poverty. I believe all poverty is a social problem. I just don’t think it is advancing any cause to balkanize people in poverty into different factions as if they are in competition against each other for donations, government funding, or anything else of the sort. These new classifications are just rhetoric that make the problem seem more complicated than it is.