Not only can the adverse effects of economic poverty on children's lives be clearly documented, but children are also disproportionately among the poverty population in the United States. Presently, one in five children in the United States is living in poverty according to the official measure, with the percentage being slightly higher for children aged 6 and under, compared with the rate of those of elementary and high school age (Hernandez, 1993).
The costs of children in poverty are experienced not only by the children themselves, but also by society. Children have great value to their families and communities. As is often said, children are the nation's most important resource; in their well-being lies the reflection of the character of society today as well as its hopes for tomorrow. Children are an important human resource; their success in school and their eventual success in the workplace are essential for a productive society. Being reared in a household with limited economic resources is disproportionately associated with higher rates of crime, violence, underemployment, unemployment, and isolation from the larger community.
Children are dependent on others for their well-being and because of their dependence, they enter or avoid poverty by virtue of their family's economic circumstances. They typically cannot alter their poverty status by themselves, at least until they approach late adolescence, so it is fitting to focus special attention on them in any study of poverty.
Third, and last, this volume does not address the broad and well-researched topics of the causes of economic poverty or issues in the development of policies to reduce its prevalence or its adverse effects. Those topics are well beyond the scope of the panel's work.