Research Update Masthead - No Chart
September 16, 2010

Census Reports More Children Living in Poverty: Implications for Well-being


Both the number of children in poverty and the child poverty rate increased between 2008 and 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which released new national estimates of poverty today. The number of children in poverty rose from 14.1 million to 15.5 million in 2009 and the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent to nearly 21 percent. In addition, the number and percentage of children living in "deep" poverty (households with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty level) also increased (from 6.3 million to 6.9 million and from 8.5 percent to 9.3 percent in 2009, respectively.) Children made up more than a third (35.5 percent) of all people in poverty in 2009.  These numbers represent an increase again over 2007 data, which reported 13.3 million children, or 18 percent, living in poverty in the United States.

A substantial body of research links poverty with multiple negative outcomes for children. When compared with children from more affluent families, poor children are more likely to have low academic achievement, to drop out of school, and to have health, behavioral, and emotional problems. These linkages are particularly strong for children whose families experience deep poverty, who are poor during early childhood, and who are trapped in poverty for a long time.

In 2009, a family of four including two children was considered to be living in poverty if their income was below $21,756. Despite the widespread use of the standard federal poverty level, many experts believe 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold is a better measure of economic hardship.  Under this criterion, 42.2 percent of U.S. children lived in "low income" households in 2009.

Note that the figures released today are from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and are national-level only.  Later this month, the Census Bureau will release poverty estimates from the American Community Survey that will cover the nation, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, every congressional district and all counties, places and metropolitan areas with populations of 65,000 or more.

Related Research from Child Trends