Business Daily Media

1 in 6 US kids are in families below the poverty line

  • Written by Callie Freitag, Ph.D. Candidate in Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington
1 in 6 US kids are in families below the poverty line
CC BY-ND[1] In the United States, children are more likely to experience poverty[2] than people over 18. In 2020, about 1 in 6 kids, 16% of all children[3], were living in families with incomes below the official poverty line – an income threshold the government set that year at about US$26,500 for a family of four[4]. Only 10% of Americans ages 18 to 64 and 9% of those 65 and up were experiencing poverty, according to the most recent data available. The official child poverty rate ticks down when the economy grows and up during downturns[5]. It stood at 17% in 1967 – just about the same as in 2020. In many recent years the rate hovered even higher – around 20%. Another way to measure poverty Researchers calculate the official poverty rate[6] by adding up a household’s income and comparing it with a threshold of what is needed to survive. The government has calculated this rate the same way since the 1960s[7]. One of its shortcomings is that it excludes several sources of income[8], including tax credits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program[9], which are intended to reduce poverty. In 2011, the government began to calculate an alternative metric: the supplemental poverty measure[10]. It includes SNAP and tax credits. It also uses thresholds based on the cost of living in different areas of the country. For a family of four, this threshold[11] currently ranges from $24,000 to $35,000, depending on where a family lives and whether they own or rent housing. According to this alternative measure, 10% of children were living in poverty in 2020, the lowest rate ever recorded. Depending on which measure you use[12], either 7 million or 11.7 million U.S. children lived in poverty in 2020. By both metrics, poverty is higher for children of color[13]. The official poverty rate[14] for Black children stood at 26%, and 23% for Hispanic children, while for white, non-Hispanic children it was 10%. Before and after 2020 Both child poverty rates had been declining before the COVID-19 pandemic. The official rate dipped to 14%[15] in 2019 from 21% five years earlier. It shot back up to 16% in 2020, when the pandemic compounded economic hardships for many families. The supplemental measure of child poverty tells a more complete story. Steps the government took during the pandemic, including its series of economic impact payments[16], the child tax credit expansion[17] and a boost in SNAP benefits[18], led the supplemental child poverty rate to keep declining even during the economic crisis. The government will release its child poverty data for 2022 in September 2023[19]. But some researchers at Columbia University have monthly data suggesting that child poverty rose steeply[20] after the expiration of the pandemic-era programs. They estimate that 3.7 million more children were living in poverty[21] in January 2022 than in December 2021 because of the expiration of the child tax credit expansion[22]. References^ CC BY-ND (^ children are more likely to experience poverty (^ 16% of all children (^ US$26,500 for a family of four (^ ticks down when the economy grows and up during downturns (^ calculate the official poverty rate (^ since the 1960s (^ excludes several sources of income (^ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (^ the supplemental poverty measure (^ this threshold (^ which measure you use (^ higher for children of color (^ official poverty rate (^ official rate dipped to 14% (^ economic impact payments (^ child tax credit expansion (^ boost in SNAP benefits (^ September 2023 (^ child poverty rose steeply (^ 3.7 million more children were living in poverty (^ expiration of the child tax credit expansion (

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