In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, author Robert D. Putnam, tells us of the worsening plight of poor children in the United States. Putnam discusses some of the factors in the lives of poor families that research has shown may lead to negative outcomes, such as (a) the increasing absence of the father from the family, (b) "toxic stress" found in families living in poverty, which impedes healthy parenting practices and contributes to a chaotic family environment, and (c) the disintegration of communities and the isolation of poor children, resulting in the overall lack of adult guidance on how to navigate processes and institutions important for becoming a productive adult.
As Putnam describes the disappearing opportunity for poor children as a crisis, reviewer William Holcomb wonders about the need for a “crisis plan” to deal with it. A few recommendations are put forth in the book, including the controversial strategy of providing money to the poor to directly offset the effects of poverty. Distributing money to the poor could include expanding earned income tax credits, expanding the existing child tax credit, and continuing some current antipoverty programs, as well as innovative wage and job supports for poor families.
Is it time to be bold with policy recommendations to help end the cycle of intergenerational poverty? Is providing money to the poor directly a strategy worth considering? What other strategies are needed?
By William Holcomb
PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(41)