In 1993, safety net programs cut child poverty by 9 percent from what it would have been absent the aid. By 2019, those programs had cut child poverty by 44 percent, and the number of children they removed from poverty more than tripled to 6.5 million. “This is an astounding decline in child poverty,” said Dana Thomson, a co-author of the Child Trends study. “Its magnitude is unequaled in the history of poverty measurement, and the single largest explanation is the growth of the safety net.”
Yet whatever its flaws, the safety net depicted in the Child Trends data lifts a record share of children from poverty. “The federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won,” President Ronald Reagan said a generation ago. With child poverty at a record low, that narrative of defeat appears obsolete.
Reagan-isms aging poorly, who could see it coming?