A pediatrician's view on child poverty rates: 'I need policymakers to do their job'


In the United States, child poverty has more than doubled over a single year.

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The child poverty rate has more than doubled over the past year in the United States.

Cavan Images/Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

It’s rare that a government policy has an immediate, measurable effect on a large segment of the population. After the expanded credit was implemented, child poverty reached a record low of 5.2% in the year before. New Census data shows it has since rocketed to 12.4%.

Doctors are seeing this play out in real time.

Who did we talk to?

Pediatrician and researcher Megan Sandel, who treats kids at Boston Medical Center.

NPR spoke to her a couple of years ago while the monthly payments were still going out to families. She said this at the time. In the last six month, we have seen families start to recover. Finally, we have begun to graduate children from our Grow Clinic. Sandel said to Ari Shapiro of

All things Considered this week that:

We are seeing families under enormous stress. These families are faced with really difficult decisions. Listen to the

Consider This episode on

how families are sliding back into poverty


What’s the context?As reported by All Things Considered

, in 2021, Congress increased child tax credit as part of the American Rescue Plan. Listen to the

Consider This episode on how families are sliding back into poverty.What’s the context?


  • All Things Considered reported, in 2021, Congress increased the amount of the child tax credit as part of the American Rescue Plan. The program also increased eligibility for low-income families by millions. Experts and parents both reported relief. However, the measure was only temporary and was not renewed.
    Experts claim that policy changes are reflected in the classroom.

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What is Sandel seeing?Sandel is concerned with stunted growth and weight loss amongst the children she treats. What we are starting to see now is children flatlining. Kids who should be growing and gaining weight. They should, quite frankly, be developing the brain they will need for the remainder of their lives. We’re also seeing children not grow. We see kids losing weight. When you are 3 or 4, this is a medical crisis. What is going on? Sandel points out that inflation and rising housing costs are adding to the burden of already struggling families. She says that effective policies can help families to navigate these factors.
I don’t think people should say “Oh, well inflation, it doesn’t matter if people give more money. It will just be spent, and it won’t travel as much.” I do think that in many ways, it really is about the positive effects of putting money in people’s pockets.

How does this make her feel as a pediatrician?

Mostly, Sandel says she doesn’t understand why the policy was allowed to expire.

We had something that really, really worked. What are some ways we can convince ourselves that this investment is worth it? What I say is that I will do my best as a doctor to help children grow. It is in their hands. What now?

Sandel isn’t ready to give up on policies that help families and kids. She says the new child poverty rate is a “wakeup call” to all. “

As Ludden reports on, child poverty rates are also fueling political debate about bringing back a expanded child tax credit – although it has been at a standstill in Congress.

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