Current Events For Kids: Talking About War On Poverty At Dinnertime

war on poverty

We previously stated why current events should be served up to your kids at dinner. You certainly can’t cover every current topic with your child, and there are some you may want to avoid altogether, but one that’s really making a lot of headlines right now is the “War on Poverty,” and whether or not it’s been effective since its launch five decades ago.

What is “War on Poverty”

Give your kids a little background on what is meant by the “War on Poverty:”

  • Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty 50 years ago.
  • Since then, the poverty rate has dropped very little—only to about 15 percent, from an initial 19%.
  • The War on Poverty consists of enacting social programs, aimed at improving the lives of people who fall below the poverty level.
  • It’s not just poverty rates that are problematic, it’s also the gap between the rich and the poor. Income equality is becoming an increasingly pervasive problem.
  • Democrats and Republicans both agree there’s a problem, but they have different solutions. Democrats tend to favor the expansion of these social programs, along with a raise in minimum wage, while Republicans point to the research showing similar measures haven’t worked to this point. They, by contrast, want to reduce funding for these social programs, and instead focus on creating jobs and more economic opportunity they say will allow people to rise out of poverty, without assistance from the government.

How to speak about poverty to your kids

Regardless of the age of your children, it’s important to make current events discussions relevant to their lives.

Many of the nation’s poor are children, so speak with your own children about how they view poverty, particularly as it impacts children and young people.

You can also speak to them about poverty they’ve experienced in terms of their own friends or classmates, to see if they have relevant experiences to share.

Here are facts to help carrying a conversation about poverty:

Poverty in the world*:

  • 800 million: that’s the number of people who go to bed hungry every day. About half of them are children.
  • Four out of every ten people in the world don’t have access even to a simple latrine
  • Five million people, mostly children, die each year from water-borne diseases.
  • Every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation and the large majority are children under the age of 5.
* These facts comes from the United Nations.

Poverty in the United States:

  • A family of three with a child under 18 is counted as poor if its pretax money income is below $18,751 a year (you can learn more about poverty thresholds here)
  • 15.1% of Americans lived in poverty in 2010
  • 17.2 million households were food insecure in 2010

Conversation starters

After giving your kids a basic overview, open up the lines of communication, and let them share their own views and possible solutions.

Potential conversation starters include:

    • What do you think the main causes of poverty are?
    • Do you think personal choices impact your income level?
    • How can the government help people who are poor, in ways that are different from what they do now?
    • Talk to your kids about how they see the government’s role in people’s lives, and whether they have a positive or negative view of the government.
    • What are steps, if any, people can take on their own, to find their way out of poverty?
    • Ask your kids what actions can he do to help people in need. Will he be willing to give away his old toys? To give a little bit of his time for non-profit organization?

What about you, how do you talk to your kids about poverty?