America Magazine asked me to write a short piece about America’s shameful discrepancies in child deaths. It wasn’t easy to squeeze 3 very different causes of death into 750 words, but I did my best. It was interesting (for me, anyway) to look at three different “structural” issues that are more likely to cause death in America than elsewhere, from the most nebulous and expensive to change (too much driving everywhere) to the politically and culturally difficult (guns, particularly suicides) and then the more straightforward steps that can reduce infant mortality if only Americans were more willing to help those we judge to be “undeserving”. (Included is a brief aside about how America’s infant mortality discrepancy is a real thing, not just an artifact of how we count infant deaths as some have claimed.)
Unraveling all of the challenges and possible solutions for child poverty can’t be done in so few words, but the most fundamental issue that I was trying to get at in the conclusion is this: if we recognize that children ought not die because of their parents’ decisions or the decisions of others, then we will have to intervene in different ways — sometimes in the lives of people who have made bad choices — and be willing to sacrifice collectively for the sake of those children. If we aren’t willing to talk about what sacrifices have to be made by people who have power and privilege, then kids are going to keep dying at a disproportionate rate.