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Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America

Stephen Shames | United States

1985 - Ventura, California, USA: Homeless, 11-year-old Kevin sleeps in the front seat of the family car. His 13-year-old brother, Christopher, sleeps in the back. The Wallace family has been homeless for two years. They live at McGrath State Park on the beach. Families are allowed to camp for 14 days and then must leave for 24 hours. “This has not been an easy life on the kids,” says their mom, “The other kids call them hobos.”

The 1980s saw the largest increase in child poverty since the 1960s. Outside the Dream put faces on the statistics—the 13 million poor children living in poverty — adrift in the richest nation in history. In the 1980s children constitute one half of all poor people in America. Today, as income inequality grows, poverty —especially child poverty — is again an issue.

This was published as a book:Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America(Aperture).

America is a dream.

We are a nation created by our collective dreams.Our founding fathers dreamt of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.My grand-parents came to this country to fulfill their dream religious freedom.Martin Luther King had a dream of freedom.Others dreamt of material success, a better life.Millions continue migrating to our shores with their dreams and aspirations because America continues to be the place where dreams come true.

Yet within our borders a generation of American children exist outside the dream.They have been left behind in poverty and despair.It is as if they are not part of this great country, not part of the American dream.There are more than 12 million American children living in poverty. They constitute one half of all poor people in America. Today, the poor are children. And their numbers are growing.


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