Reality Check: 19% of U.S. Kids Are Still Living in Poverty

Posted July 10, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Families with two adults and two kids earning less than $24,339 per year are living in poverty.

In America today, nearly 1 in every 5 kids— 14.1 million children total — is living in poverty.

The likelihood that a child experiences poverty depends on where they live. Rates are highest in Mississippi and New Mexico, where 30% of kids in each state live in poverty. At the other end of the statistical spectrum sits New Hampshire, home to a child poverty rate of just 8%.

Poverty risk also varies by race and ethnicity. Across the nation, 12% of Asian and Pacific Islander kids and 12% of white kids are living in poverty. This risk rises sharply — to 34% — for both their African American and American Indian peers.

The federal definition of poverty varies by family size and composition. In 2016, which represents the most recent full year of data on record, a family of two adults and two children were officially living in poverty if their household earnings fell below $24,339 annually.

Experts also track extreme poverty. In 2016, a family of two adults and two kids were living in extreme poverty if their annual household income dipped below $12,170.

Among the 14.1 million kids living in poverty, 44% — about 6.2 million children total — are growing up in extreme poverty, according to KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Why The Child Poverty Rate Matters

Growing up poor has wide-ranging and long-lasting repercussions. “Parents’ economic disadvantage plays a formative role in shaping children’s opportunities for success and acquisition of skills,” according to researchers.

Compared to their higher-income peers, kids who grow up in low-income households have poorer mental health, more behavioral problems and struggle with self-regulation. Early childhood poverty also dims academic outcomes, undercutting how well kids do in school, how likely kids are to graduate high school and more.

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