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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Child Poverty

Children living in poverty are vulnerable to environmental, educational, health, and safety risks. Compared with their peers, children living in poverty, especially young children, are more likely to have cognitive, behavioral, and socioemotional difficulties. Throughout their lifetimes they are more likely to complete fewer years of school and experience more years of unemployment.31,32,33 These indicators are based on the official poverty measure for the United States as defined in Office of Management and Budget Statistical Policy Directive 14.34

Indicator Econ1.A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 living in poverty by race, Hispanic origin, and family structure, 1980–2011
Percentage of children ages 0–17 living in poverty by race, Hispanic origin, and family structure, 1980–2011

NOTE: In 2011, the poverty threshold for a two-parent, two-child family was $22,811. The proportion of children in male-householder families (no spouse present) historically has been small. Select data for this group are available as part of detailed tables at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/index.html.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements.

  • Twenty-two percent of all children ages 0–17 (16.1 million) lived in poverty in 2011, which was not statistically different from 2010 but higher than the 16 percent of all children in 2001.
  • The poverty rate was much higher for Black, non-Hispanic and for Hispanic children than for White, non-Hispanic children.2 Thirteen percent of White, non-Hispanic children lived in poverty in 2011, compared with 39 percent of Black, non-Hispanic children and 34 percent of Hispanic children.
  • Children in married-couple families were much less likely to be living in poverty than children living in female-householder families (no spouse present). Eleven percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty in 2011, compared with 48 percent in female-householder families.
  • Children ages 0–5 were more likely to be living in families with incomes below the poverty line than those ages 6–17. Twenty-five percent of children ages 0–5 lived in poverty in 2011, compared with 20 percent of older children.
  • Ten percent of children lived in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty threshold in 2011. Nineteen percent of Black, non-Hispanic children, 15 percent of Hispanic children, and 6 percent of White, non-Hispanic children lived in families with incomes below one-half of the poverty threshold in 2011.

table icon ECON1.A HTML Table

2 Federal surveys now give respondents the option of reporting more than one race. Therefore, two basic ways of defining a race group are possible. A group such as Black may be defined as those who reported Black and no other race (the race-alone or single-race concept) or as those who reported Black regardless of whether they also reported another race (the race-alone or- in-combination concept). This indicator shows data using the first approach (race-alone). Use of the single-race population does not imply that it is the preferred method of presenting or analyzing data. The U.S. Census Bureau uses a variety of approaches. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

31 Strohschein, L. (2005, December). Household income histories and child mental health trajectories. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46(4), 359–357.

32 Duncan, G., and Brooks-Gunn, J. (Eds.). (1997). Consequences of growing up poor. New York, NY: Russell Sage Press.

33 Wagmiller, Jr., R.L., Lennon, M.C., Kuang, L., Alberti, P.M., Aber, J.L. (2006, October). The dynamics of economic disadvantage and children's life changes. American Sociological Review, 71(5), 847–866.

34 34 Following Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Statistical Policy Directive 14, poverty status is determined by comparing a family's (or an unrelated individual's) income to one of 48 dollar amounts called thresholds. The thresholds vary by the size of the family and the members' ages. In 2011, the poverty threshold for a family with two adults and two children was $22,811. For further details, see http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty.html.