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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2020

Child Poverty

Children living in poverty are vulnerable to environmental, educational, health, and safety risks. Compared with their peers, children living in poverty 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.18, 19, 20, 21 These data are based on the official poverty measure for the United States as defined in U.S. Office of Management and Budget Statistical Policy Directive 14.22

Figure 6: Percentage of children ages 0–17 living in poverty by race, Hispanic origin, and metropolitan status, 2018
Figure 6: Percentage of children ages 0–17 living in poverty by race, Hispanic origin, and metropolitan status, 2018

NOTE: NH = non-Hispanic origin and AIAN = American Indian or Alaska Native. In 2018, the poverty threshold for a two-parent, two-child family was $25,465. The 1997 U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards on race and ethnicity are used to classify persons into one of the following five racial groups: White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Federal surveys give respondents the option of reporting more than one race. Therefore, two 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 or those who report Black regardless of whether they also report another race. This indicator shows data using the first approach. Included in the total, but not shown separately, are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, people reporting some other race, or people reporting two or more races. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. The OMB classifies counties as within a metropolitan or a micropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are not classified and are considered rural in this report. Rural counties may include small urban areas, as well as completely rural areas. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau reviewed this data product for unauthorized disclosure of confidential information and has approved the disclosure avoidance practices applied to this release. CBDRB-FY2020-POP001-0123.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

  • In 2018, children ages 0–17 living in metropolitan areas had the lowest poverty rates. In 2018, 17% of children living in metropolitan areas lived in poverty, 22% of children living in micropolitan areas lived in poverty, and 23% of children living in rural areas lived in poverty.
  • Among the racial and ethnic groups presented, Black, non-Hispanic children ages 0–17 had the highest poverty rates in metropolitan and micropolitan areas in 2018. In metropolitan areas, 31% of Black, non-Hispanic children lived in poverty. Nearly half (47%) of all Black, non-Hispanic children in micropolitan areas lived in poverty.
  • Among the geographical areas, poverty rates for White, non-Hispanic; American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic; and Asian, non-Hispanic children ages 0–17 were highest in rural areas. Poverty rates for Black, non-Hispanic children were highest in micropolitan areas, and poverty rates for Hispanic children were highest in nonmetropolitan areas. The difference between micropolitan and rural areas was not statistically significant but both were higher than the poverty rate in metropolitan areas.

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18 Strohschein, L. (2005). Household income histories and child mental health trajectories. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46(4), 357–359. https://doi.org/10.1177/002214650504600404

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

20 Wagmiller, R. L., Jr., Lennon, M. C., Kuang, L., Alberti, P. M., & Aber, J. L. (2006). The dynamics of economic disadvantage and children's life changes. American Sociological Review, 71(5), 847–866. https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240607100507

21 Dahl, G., & Lochner, L. (2008). The impact of family income on child achievement: Evidence from the earned income tax credit (NBER Working Paper No. 14599). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from https://www.nber.org/papers/w14599.pdf

22 Following U.S. Office of Management and Budget 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 2018, the poverty threshold for a family with two adults and two children was $25,465. For further details, see https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-poverty-thresholds.html.