Women’s Rights and Childhood Poverty
Just when the Supreme Court is apparently preparing to do away with women’s constitutional right to abortion, the federal government is phasing out pandemic-era policies to reduce childhood poverty. That leaves progressive state governments as the last defenders of basic rights and American families.
BERKELEY – Judging by the leaked draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the US Supreme Court seems poised to abolish the half-century-old federally protected constitutional right to abortion. This ruling would be a direct federal attack on women and their right to control their bodies and their decisions about whether and when to have children, with adverse ripple effects on their education, earnings, and life outcomes and those of their children.
According to anamicus brief signed by 154 distinguished economists, including Claudia Goldin of Harvard University and Sharon Oster of Yale University, abortion restrictions would lead to increased childhood poverty. And a child growing up in poverty in the United States experiences worse outcomes, on average, across pretty much every measurable dimension, from physical and mental health, educational attainment, and labor-market success to delinquency, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and crime. Worse, the US already has one of the highest childhood poverty rates among advanced economies, and it is the only one that does not provide a basic child allowance.
As the late comedian George Carlin once observed, “[US] conservatives … are all in favor of the unborn, but once you’re born, you’re on your own!” A recent case in point is the refusal of congressional Republicans to extend a child tax credit that had reduced childhood poverty by 40% during the pandemic. Of the 26 states that are now planning strict abortion bans, many rank in the bottom half of states in terms of the support they provide to children and their families.