Child Poverty

Alarming Surge in Child Poverty Rates in 2022: Urgent Calls for Action

September 20, 2023 | National

Last week, the Census Bureau released the U.S. poverty data for 2022 using two different measures: the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) and the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). Children’s Defense Fund is disheartened to learn that the SPM child poverty rate has more than doubled from 5.1% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022that is more than 5 million more children living in poverty as a direct result of policy choices.

The SPM—a more comprehensive overview of poverty—accounts for government programs that assist low-income families, state and federal taxes, work, and medical expenses. In contrast to the OPM, the SPM also provides greater insight into how families are faring financially with the end of pandemic-era assistance like the extra SNAP benefits, the expanded Child Tax Credit, and other income supports. 

The newly released data for 2022 shows that poverty is disproportionately higher for Black and Brown families. SPM rates for Black children increased to 17.4%, up from 7.5% in 2022. The data also reveals that poverty is the highest among female-headed households–an estimated SPM rate of 22.6%, an increase of 10.9% from 2021. This is significant because these caregivers face additional barriers as women and single parents. And when parents and caregivers are underpaid and ill-resourced, their children are negatively impacted. 

Children and youth have the right to an adequate standard of living, yet we continually underinvest in policies that meet their basic needs. When we deny children and youth access to nutrition and stable housing, we threaten their rights to healthy development. Living in poverty is a harsh reality for anyone, but it is particularly harmful for children and young people. Poverty can negatively impact child development, health, well-being, and educational outcomes. Children and youth who live in poverty are often exposed to other vulnerabilities, such as inadequate nutrition and mental and physical issues

As a society, we are responsible for the welfare of all our nation’s children and youth and have a moral obligation to meet their needs, especially in the face of centuries of historical systemic inequities. And voters have been calling for greater federal investments to address these issues.

How do we begin to do right by our children? Children’s Defense Fund, along with hundreds of national and state partners, parents and caregivers, children, and youth, have been calling for the restoration of the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion that cut child poverty nearly in half in 2021. We know what policies work to reduce poverty in the United States and provide stability for children and their families. A fully refundable, monthly credit to families aided parents and caregivers in paying rent, putting food on the table, and providing school supplies and clothes to their children

By letting the expansions to the CTC, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and other income supports expire, Congress has allowed over 5 million children and youth to fall back into poverty. For Black and Brown children, the SPM rate of poverty either doubled or tripled from 2021 to 2022 pointing to systemic inequities in access to resources. 

This is unacceptable. 

We call on our elected representatives to reinvest in and reprioritize our children, now, by restoring an expanded CTC and other cash assistance, and for the future, by continuing to fund programs and services through the federal appropriations process that serve families. All children and youth deserve stable housing, with access to nutrition and healthcare, and with the resources they need to live with dignity and joy.