The U.S. Census Bureau in October reported the good news that child poverty had dropped nationally, over the course of 12 years, from 18.2% in 2009 to 5.2% — a record low — in 2021.

That is an improvement worth celebrating — on the face of it. But is this a lasting, structural and meaningful improvement?

As the Census Bureau report notes, much of the change is attributable to anti-poverty policies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those expanding the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to as much as $3,600 per child and allowing even families too poor to owe income tax to collect the benefit; expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and creating stimulus funds.

That means this rise in the fortunes of the nation’s children is at best ephemeral. As the pandemic subsides, COVID-era program expansions are inevitably sunsetting, and new economic pressures are increasingly dire. It is not a significant leap of logic to imagine that millions of families will quickly fall back into an unsustainable position as these programs are discontinued or even cut back.

In other words, notwithstanding the ladder that the federal government briefly stuck into the hole in which low-income families found themselves during COVID, that hole is now getting deeper. The 8 million American children who are still dependent on government assistance are not only behind, they are badly behind, and likely to be more so in the years ahead.

Read the full article about generational wealth by Stephanie J. Hull at The 74.