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How COVID-19 Hurts Children

The US has not only the world’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths, but also the highest child poverty rate among rich democracies. With unemployment skyrocketing and government support expiring, the situation for children is set to deteriorate further, with severe long-term consequences.

DURHAM/NEW YORK – Children are generally believed to be less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, especially the elderly. But they are far from safe from the crisis. Beyond uncertainties about COVID-19’s direct health effects, children are highly vulnerable to the economic consequences of the pandemic, which threatens to push 71-100 million people into extreme poverty worldwide.

The risks are particularly acute in the United States, which has not only the world’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths and regularly sets new single-day infection records, but also the highest child poverty rate among rich democracies. Black, Hispanic, and Native American children suffer higher poverty rates than their white counterparts.

With unemployment skyrocketing and government support being rolled back, the situation is set to deteriorate even further, with severe long-term consequences. A large body of evidence shows conclusively that poverty is highly detrimental to children’s cognitive development, emotional stability, and health, owing to factors like food insecurity, lack of quality health care, inferior community resources, and stressful home environments. The newest neuroscience research suggests that poverty alone may also harm the brain’s growth and functioning. All of this translates into fewer years of schooling completed, lower lifetime earnings, and a higher chance of landing in jail or becoming a teen parent.

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