But what if the U.S. spent $77.2 billion every year to fight the problem?
A new report out Wednesday from the Children's Defense Fund says spending 2 percent of the federal budget on "expanding investments in existing policies that work" would lead to a 60 percent drop in childhood poverty.
As part of an ongoing series on childhood poverty in Colorado, CPR News is exploring a variety of solutions -- including this one -- proffered by advocacy groups, lawmakers and others.
"These policies could be pursued immediately, improving the lives and futures of millions of children and eventually saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars annually," wrote Marian Wright Edelman, the advocacy group's founder.
That's the main thrust of the report's argument: America's child poverty problem is unfair to children who cannot choose the circumstances they are born into, and allowing it to continue to exist at current levels would cost "far more than eliminating it would."
The report calls for bolstering the Earned Income Tax Credit, an increased minimum wage, and expanding child care subsidies -- all government-funded approaches not likely to draw support from Republicans in Congress. Conservative approaches to poverty typically rely more on private charities, community groups and volunteers.
To pay for the new expenditures, the report's authors recommend closing corporate tax loopholes, cutting military spending or eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy.
This story is part of our ongoing exploration of Colorado kids who are living in poverty, how it affects their lives and our common future. We'd like to hear your ideas about about what can be done about child poverty in Colorado. Share your thoughts through our Public Insight Network.