Millions More Children Living in Poverty; Now is the Time to Act and Invest in the Future of Our Children

Children's Defense Fund

September 16, 2010

 

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today, 15.5 million children in America—or more than one in every five children—lived in poverty in 2009. This is an almost ten percent increase over 2008.

“Children are the foundation of America’s future and they need both our immediate attention and our courage to act,” said Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman. “This devastating but expected increase in the number of children living in poverty drives home the fact that we are failing miserably in our moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. It is incomprehensible and morally indefensible that while we are debating whether to extend an average tax cut of $100,000 a year for individuals earning over a million dollars annually, 15.5 million children are living in families who struggle everyday to survive on a fraction of that single tax cut.”

“America can and must turn economic downturn into an opportunity to step forward and correct the gross imbalance of government subsidization of the wealthiest and most powerful among us by investing in our children. We must make it a national priority to invest now in the early childhood development, health, education, and well-being of our children.”

The Census Bureau data released today document just how far off course our country remains in protecting our children and investing in their future and our nation’s future. It reported the following details about child poverty in 2009:

  • A total of 15.5 million children, or one in every five children in America, lived in poverty in 2009. Over five million of these children were under the age of five. Poverty is defined as an annual income of below $21,954 for a four-person family.
  • Of these children, almost half—6.9 million—lived in extreme poverty, defined as an annual income of less than half of the poverty level ($10,974 for a family of four). 2.4 million children living in extreme poverty in 2009 were under the age of five.
  • Children of color continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty:
    • 4 million Black children—more than one in three—live in poverty.
    • 5.6 million Hispanic children—one in three—live in poverty.
    • 4.9 million White, non-Hispanic children—more than one in ten—live in poverty.
  • Between 2008 and 2009 child poverty increased by almost ten percent. After dropping by 24 percent between 1992 and 2000, the number of children in poverty increased by more than one–third between 2000 and 2009.
  • The majority of poor children—9.2 million, or almost 60 percent of all children in poverty—lived in single parent families.
  • Married-couple families were not immune to the effects of the recession. Nearly nine percent more were poor in 2009 than in 2008, for a total of 2.2 million poor married-couple families in 2009.
  • Many poor families had working family members. 4.4 million poor families in 2009 had one or more family members working, yet were still unable to pull their family out of poverty.

This is an unsettling picture of child poverty in America. The Great Recession has thrust millions of children and families into poverty, jeopardizing the promise of a productive future for children and our nation. Unfortunately, millions more are likely to be impacted by the effects of the recession over the coming years unless and until we have the courage to act decisively and invest in the future of our children.

Learn more about how children are faring through CDF's recently released The State of America's Children® 2010 report.  NOTE: Poverty data from this report is based on 2008 census data.

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today, 15.5 million children in America—or one in every five children—lived in poverty in 2009. This is an almost ten percent increase over 2008.
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