In discussions of poverty in the US, child poverty tends to get most of the focus.

And I think there are good reasons for that. While the US has more poverty than other rich countries in general, it is a particular outlier on child poverty. In 2016, the US poverty rate for children (defined as the share living on less than half the median income) was 20.9 percent, compared to 14.2 percent in Canada, 11.8 percent in the UK, and a tiny 8.9 percent in Sweden. We’re just about the only rich country without some kind of per-child cash grant distributed to most parents.

But lately I’ve started thinking that the US poverty discussion focuses a little too much around kids and not enough around childless adults.

I want to be clear: I still think offering a simple cash allowance to all parents, like almost all other rich countries do, would be very good policy. It’s an elegant and popular way to cut poverty, and there are developmental benefits that don’t apply as much when you’re supporting adults without children.

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