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Indicators

Family Characteristics of School-Age Children
(Last Updated: May 2016)

In 2014, approximately 20 percent of school-age children were in families living in poverty. The percentage of school-age children living in poverty ranged across the United States from 12 percent in Maryland to 29 percent in Mississippi.

Parents’ educational attainment and household poverty status are associated with the quality of children’s educational experiences and their academic achievement, whether they are in public school, in private school, or being homeschooled.1 For example, research suggests that living in poverty during early childhood is related to lower levels of academic performance, beginning in kindergarten and extending through elementary and high school, and lower rates of high school completion.2,3


Figure 1. Percentage distribution of 5- to 17-year-olds, by parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2014

Figure 1. Percentage distribution of 5- to 17-year-olds, by parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2014


1 Includes parents who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.
NOTE: Parents’ highest level of educational attainment is the highest level of education attained by any parent residing in the same household as the child. Parents include adoptive and stepparents but exclude parents not residing in the same household as their child. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 104.70.


In 2014, about 38 percent of school-age children (those ages 5 to 17) had parents whose highest level of educational attainment4 was a bachelor’s or higher degree: 21 percent had parents who had completed a bachelor’s degree, 12 percent had parents who had completed a master’s degree, and 5 percent had parents who had completed a doctor’s degree. In addition, 11 percent of school-age children had parents who had not completed high school, 19 percent had parents who had only completed high school,5 22 percent had parents who attended some college but did not receive a degree, and 10 percent had parents who had completed an associate’s degree.


Figure 2. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds, by child’s race/ethnicity and parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2014

Figure 2. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds, by child’s race/ethnicity and parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2014


NOTE: Parents’ highest level of educational attainment is the highest level of education attained by any parent residing in the same household as the child. Parents include adoptive and stepparents but exclude parents not residing in the same household as their child. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 104.70.


In 2014, the percentage of school-age children (those ages 5 to 17) whose parents had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree was higher than the percentage whose parents had not completed high school (38 vs. 11 percent). This pattern held for White, Black, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native children, as well as children of Two or more races, although the margins were wider for some groups than others. For example, among Asian school-age children, 64 percent had parents who had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree versus 8 percent whose parents had not completed high school. Among American Indian/Alaska Native children, 22 percent had parents who had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared with 10 percent whose parents who had not completed high school. On the other hand, for Hispanic school-age children, the percentage whose parents had not completed high school was higher than the percentage whose parents had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree (29 vs. 17 percent). Despite the apparent difference, the percentage of Pacific Islander children whose parents had not completed high school was not measurably different from the percentage whose parents had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree.

In 2014, approximately 10.7 million school-age children (those ages 5 to 17)6 were in families living in poverty.7 The percentage of school-age children living in poverty in 2014 (20 percent) was higher than it was over a decade earlier, in 2000 (15 percent). However, the poverty rate for school-age children in 2014 was lower than in 2013 (21 percent).


Figure 3. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds in families living in poverty, by state: 2014

Figure 3. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds in families living in poverty, by state: 2014


NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 102.40.


While the national average poverty rate for school-age children (those ages 5 to 17) was 20 percent in 2014, the poverty rates among the states ranged from 12 percent in Maryland to 29 percent in Mississippi. Twenty-five states had poverty rates for school-age children that were lower than the national average, 14 states and the District of Columbia had rates that were higher than the national average, and 11 states had rates that were not measurably different from the national average. Of the 15 jurisdictions (14 states and the District of Columbia) that had poverty rates higher than the national average, the majority (12) were located in the South. The poverty rate for school-age children was higher in 2014 than it was in 2000 in 41 states, while the rate did not change measurably during this period in the remaining 9 states and the District of Columbia.6


Figure 4. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by race/ethnicity: 2009 and 2014

Figure 4. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by race/ethnicity: 2009 and 2014


NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2009 and 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 102.60.


In 2014, approximately 15.3 million, or 21 percent, of all children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty; this population includes the 10.7 million school-age 5- to 17-year-olds previously discussed and 4.6 million children under age 5 living in poverty. The percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty varied across racial/ethnic groups. In 2014, the percentage living in poverty was highest for Black children (38 percent), followed by American Indian/Alaska Native children (35 percent), Hispanic children (32 percent), Pacific Islander children (27 percent), and children of Two or more races (22 percent). The poverty rates were lower for White and Asian children (12 percent each) than for children from other racial/ethnic groups. The overall percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty in 2014 (21 percent) was higher than in 2009 (20 percent). This pattern was also observed for White, Black, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander children and for children of Two or more races (although the difference for White children was less than one percentage point). For example, 38 percent of Black children lived in poverty in 2014, compared with 36 percent in 2009. However, the percentages of Asian children and American Indian/Alaska Native children living in poverty were not measurably different in 2014 than in 2009.


Figure 5. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by selected Hispanic subgroups: 2014

Figure 5. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by selected Hispanic subgroups: 2014


1 Includes other Central American subgroups not shown separately.
2 Includes children from Hispanic countries other than the ones shown.
NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 102.60.


In 2014, the overall rate of Hispanic children under age 18 living in poverty (32 percent) was higher than the national average of 21 percent. However, there was a range of rates among Hispanic subgroups, with some rates being lower than the national average. For example, the poverty rates for Peruvian children (12 percent) as well as Chilean and Panamanian children (14 percent each) were lower than the national average, while the rates for Guatemalan children (40 percent) and Honduran children (42 percent) were higher than the national average.


Figure 6. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by selected Asian subgroups: 2014

Figure 6. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by selected Asian subgroups: 2014


1 Includes Taiwanese.
2 In addition to the South Asian subgroups shown, also includes Sri Lankan.
3 Other Southeast Asian consists of Indonesian and Malaysian.
4 "Other Asian" refers to children from Asian countries other than the ones shown.
NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 102.60.


The overall rate of Asian children under age 18 living in poverty (12 percent) was lower than the national average, but there was a range of rates among Asian subgroups, with some rates being higher than the national average. For example, the poverty rates for Bhutanese children (52 percent) and Burmese children (39 percent) were higher than the national average, while the rates for Filipino and Asian Indian children (6 percent each) were lower than the national average.


Figure 7. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by race/ethnicity and family structure: 2014

Figure 7. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by race/ethnicity and family structure: 2014


NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. To determine family structure, children are classified by their parents’ marital status or, if no parents are present in the household, by the marital status of the householder who is related to the children. Mother-only households are those that have only a female householder, and father-only households are those that have only a male householder. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 102.60.


For children under age 18 in 2014, those living in a mother-only household had the highest rate of poverty (44 percent) and those living in a father-only household had the next highest rate (28 percent). Children living in a married-couple household had the lowest rate of poverty, at 11 percent. This pattern of children living in married-couple households having the lowest rate of poverty was observed across most racial/ethnic groups—Pacific Islander children are an exception to this pattern. The apparent difference between the estimates for children in married-couple households and those in father-only households was not statistically significant. For example, in 2014, among Black children under age 18 the poverty rates were 52 percent for children living in a mother-only household, 41 percent for those living in a father-only household, and 15 percent for those living in a married-couple household.

The poverty rates for Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children for each family type were higher than the corresponding national poverty rates in 2014. In contrast, the poverty rates for White and Asian children were lower than the national poverty rates. Among children living in mother-only households in 2014, the poverty rates for Black (52 percent), Hispanic (50 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native children (50 percent) were higher than the national poverty rate (44 percent), while the rates for White (35 percent) and Asian children (28 percent) were lower than the national poverty rate. Among children living in married-couple households in 2014, the poverty rates for Black (15 percent), Hispanic (21 percent), Pacific Islander (19 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (19 percent) children were higher than the national poverty rate (11 percent), while the rates for White (6 percent) and Asian (9 percent) children as well as children of Two or more races (9 percent) were lower than the national rate.



1 Aud, S., Fox, M., and KewalRamani, A. (2010). Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2010 (NCES 2010-015). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
2 Ross, T., Kena, G., Rathbun, A., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, J., Kristapovich, P., and Manning, E. (2012) Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study (NCES 2012-046). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
3 Mulligan, G.M., Hastedt, S., and McCarroll, J.C. (2012). First-Time Kindergartners in 2010–11: First Findings From the Kindergarten Rounds of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011) (NCES 2012-049). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
4 In this indicator, parents’ highest level of educational attainment is the highest level of education attained by any parent residing in the same household as the child.
5 Includes parents who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.
6 See Digest of Education 2015, table 102.40.
7 In this indicator, data on household income and the number of people living in the household are combined with the poverty threshold, published by the Census Bureau, to determine the poverty status of children. A household includes all families in which children are related to the householder by birth or adoption, or through marriage. The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. In 2014, the poverty threshold for a family of four with two related children under 18 years old was $24,008 (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/thresh14.xls).


Glossary Terms

Data Source

American Community Survey (ACS)