While child poverty declined from 21.1 percent (15.5 million) in 2014 to 19.7 percent (14.5 million) in 2015, children remain the poorest group in America despite seven years of economic recovery. The 19.7 percent of America’s children living in poverty in 2015, was higher than the 12.4 percent of people ages 18-64 and 8.8 percent of persons 65 and older who were poor. Children are considered poor if they live in a family of four with an annual income below $24,257 -– $2,021 a month, $466 a week, and $66 a day for the entire family. Poverty impairs all aspects of a child’s development and can have lifelong detrimental consequences.
Children of color continue to be disproportionately poor, despite a recent decline in poverty for every race and ethnicity group, and comprise nearly 70 percent of all poor children in America. Children of color already constitute the majority of children under age 5, and will constitute the majority of all children by 2020.
- One in three Black children (32.9 percent) and more than one in four Hispanic children (28.9 percent) were poor in 2015, compared to one in eight White children (12.1 percent).
- The Black child poverty rate dropped by 11 percent in 2015, after rising 10 percent in 2014, however with nearly one in three Black children in poverty, the odds continue to be stacked against their success.
- Nearly one in six Black children and one in nine Hispanic children were living in extreme poverty (at less than half of the poverty level, or $12,129 a year for a family of four), compared to one in 17 White children.
- Hispanic children remain the largest number of poor children (5,269,000).
Children’s chances of being poor are partly a result of the lottery of geography.
- Forty percent or more of Black children were poor in 15 states in 2015. Only Alaska, New Hampshire and Hawaii had Black children poverty below 20 percent, while only two states (West Virginia and Kentucky) had White non-Hispanic child poverty rates over 20 percent. More than 30 percent of Hispanic children were poor in 28 states and 30 percent or more of American Indian/Native Alaskan children were poor in 20 states.
The younger children are the poorer they are.
- More than 1 in 5 children under six, during some of the years of greatest brain development, is poor and almost half of them live in extreme poverty.
- Thirty-seven percent of Black children under five are poor, 20.4 percent extremely poor; and 30.2 percent of these young Hispanic children were poor, 13.1 percent extremely poor.
Extreme poverty touches millions of children in the richest nation in the world.
- 1.5 million families – including about 3 million children – are existing on $2 a day a person as families do in many third world countries.
- 6.5 million children live in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half of the poverty level or less than $12,129 a year for a family of four – $1,011 a month, $233 a week, or $33 a day for the whole family.
Child poverty hurts children, creates opportunity gaps than can last a lifetime and harms the nation’s economy.
- The toxic stress of early poverty stunts children’s emotional and physical development and increases the likelihood of poor academic achievement and dropping out of high school, which then increases the likelihood of unemployment, economic hardship and involvement in the criminal justice system as an adult.
- Children who experience poverty at any point in their childhood are more than three times as likely to be poor at age 30 than children who never experience poverty.
- The lost productivity, worsened health and increased crime stemming from child poverty cost the nation about half a trillion dollars a year.
- Effective polices and approaches have helped to reduce child poverty. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that safety net approaches, including the Earned Income and other tax credits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and others lifted 38 million people including 8 million children, above the poverty line, compared to who would have been helped without them.
- Children with access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, fare better in adulthood than those who do not; they are more likely to finish high school and less likely to experience obesity, stunted growth or heart disease as adults.
- Children in families benefiting from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have higher scores on reading and math tests than those who do not, are more likely to go on to college and have higher earnings as adults.