Indicators

Children Living in Poverty
(Last Updated: May 2015)

In 2013, approximately 21 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 9 percent in New Hampshire to 33 percent in Mississippi.

In 2013, approximately 10.9 million school-age children 5 to 17 years old were in families living in poverty.1 Research suggests that living in poverty during early childhood is associated with lower than average academic performance that begins in kindergarten2 and extends through elementary and high school. Living in poverty during early childhood is associated with lower than average rates of school completion.3

The percentage of school-age children living in poverty in 2013 (21 percent) was higher than it was two decades earlier in 1990 (17 percent), even though the poverty rate for school-age children was lower in 2000 (15 percent) than in 1990. Between the two most recent survey years, 2012 and 2013, the poverty rate for school-age children did not change measurably.


Figure 1. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds in families living in poverty, by region: 1990, 2000, and 2013

Figure 1. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds in families living in poverty, by region: 1990, 2000, and 2013

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. 1990 data are based on 1989 incomes and family sizes collected in the 1990 census, and 2000 data are based on 1999 incomes and family sizes collected in the 2000 census. Data for both years may differ from Current Population Survey data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, 1990 Summary Tape File 3 (STF 3), "Median Household Income in 1989" and "Poverty Status in 1989 by Family Type and Age"; Decennial Census, 1990, Minority Economic Profiles, unpublished data; Decennial Census, 2000, Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics; Census 2000 Summary File 4 (SF 4), "Poverty Status in 1999 of Related Children Under 18 Years by Family Type and Age"; and American Community Survey (ACS), 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 102.40.


All regions of the United States (Northeast, South, Midwest, and West) had higher poverty rates for school-age children in 2013 than in 1990 or 2000. In 2013, the South had the highest rate of poverty for school-age children (23 percent), followed by the West (21 percent), the Midwest (19 percent), and the Northeast (18 percent). From 1990 to 2000, both the South and the Midwest experienced a decrease in the poverty rate for school-age children (from 20 to 18 percent and from 15 to 12 percent, respectively), while the Northeast and the West did not show measurable changes.


Figure 2. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds in families living in poverty, by state: 2013

Figure 2. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-olds in families living in poverty, by state: 2013

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), 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 102.40.


While the national average poverty rate for school-age children was 21 percent in 2013, the poverty rates among the states ranged from 9 percent in New Hampshire to 33 percent in Mississippi. Some 23 states had poverty rates for school-age children that were lower than the national average, 16 states plus 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 17 jurisdictions (16 states and the District of Columbia) that had poverty rates higher than the national average, 13 were located in the South.

In 2013, some 37 states plus the District of Columbia had higher poverty rates for school-age children than in 1990, while 11 states had poverty rates for school-age children that were not measurably different from those in 1990. In two states (Louisiana and North Dakota), the percentage of school-age children living in poverty was lower in 2013 than in 1990. From 1990 to 2000, the poverty rate for school-age children decreased in 38 states, while it increased in 6 states plus the District of Columbia. In 2013, the poverty rate for school-age children was higher in 43 states than it was in 2000, and it did not change measurably in the remaining 7 states and the District of Columbia during this period.


Figure 3. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by race/ethnicity: 2008 and 2013

Figure 3. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by race/ethnicity: 2008 and 2013

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.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2008 and 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 102.60.


In 2013, approximately 15.6 million, or 22 percent, of all children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty; this population includes 10.9 million 5- to 17-year-olds and 4.8 million children under age 5 living in poverty. The percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty varied across racial/ethnic groups. In 2013, the percentage was highest for Black children (39 percent), followed by American Indian/Alaska Native children (36 percent), Hispanic children (32 percent), Pacific Islander children (27 percent), and children of Two or more races (21 percent). The poverty rate was lowest for White and Asian children (13 percent each). The percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty in 2013 was 4 percentage points higher than in 2008 (18 percent). For all racial/ethnic groups, except Pacific Islanders, the percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty in 2013 was higher than in 2008. The increases between 2008 and 2013 ranged from 2 percentage points for both White and Asian children to 7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native children.


Figure 4. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by selected race/ethnicity subgroups: 2008 and 2013

Figure 4. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by selected race/ethnicity subgroups: 2008 and 2013

1 Excludes Taiwanese. Taiwanese is included in "Other Asian."
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. "Other Central American" includes children from Central American countries other than the ones shown. Similarly, "Other Hispanic or Latino" refers to children from Hispanic or Latino countries other than the ones shown and "Other Asian" refers to children from Asian countries other than the ones shown.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2008 and 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 102.60.


Among Hispanics in 2013, the percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty ranged from 18 percent to 35 percent: South American children (18 percent), Cuban children (23 percent), Other Hispanic or Latino children (24 percent), Salvadoran children (26 percent), Puerto Rican children (34 percent), Mexican children (34 percent), Other Central American children (34 percent), and Dominican children (35 percent). Among Asians, the percentage of children living in poverty ranged from 6 percent to 25 percent: Japanese children (6 percent), Asian Indian children (6 percent), Filipino children (7 percent), Korean children (11 percent), Chinese children (12 percent), Vietnamese children (15 percent), and Other Asian children (25 percent). Among children of Two or more races, the percentage living in poverty was lowest for White-Asian children (8 percent), followed by White-American Indian/Alaska Native children (21 percent), Other children of Two or more races (22 percent), and White-Black children (29 percent).

For most racial/ethnic subgroups, the percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty was higher in 2013 than in 2008. Among Hispanics, the percentage of children living in poverty increased by 4 percentage points for Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, South American, and Other Hispanic or Latino children each, 6 percentage points for Salvadoran children, 9 percentage points for Other Central American children, and 10 percentage points for Cuban children. Among Asians, the percentage of children living in poverty increased during this period by 2 percentage points for Chinese children, 3 percentage points for Filipino children, and 6 percentage points for Other Asian children, but the percentage of children living in poverty was not measurably different for the remaining Asian subgroups: Asian Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Among children of Two or more races, the percentage of children living in poverty was higher in 2013 than in 2008 for all subgroups: 2 percentage points higher for White-Asian children, 3 percentage points higher for both White-Black children and White-American Indian/Alaska Native children, and 5 percentage points higher for Other children of Two or more races.


Figure 5. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by race/ethnicity and family structure: 2013

Figure 5. Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by race/ethnicity and family structure: 2013

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), 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 102.60.


Among children under age 18 living in poverty in 2013, those living in a mother-only household had the highest rate of poverty (45 percent) and those living in a father-only household had the next highest rate (29 percent). Children living in a married-couple household had the lowest rate of poverty, at 11 percent. This pattern of married-couple households having the lowest rate of poverty was observed across all racial/ethnic groups. For example, in 2013, 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 16 percent for those living in a married-couple household.

For all family types, the poverty rates for Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children were generally higher than the national poverty rates in 2013. In contrast, the poverty rates for White and Asian children were generally lower than the national poverty rates. For example, among children living in mother-only households in 2013 the national poverty rate (45 percent) was lower than the rates for Black children (52 percent), Hispanic children (50 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native children (55 percent), but higher than the rates for White children (36 percent), Asian children (28 percent), and children of Two or more races (41 percent).


1 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 2013, the poverty threshold for a family of four with two related children under 18 years old was $23,624 (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/thresh13.xls).
2 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.
3 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.

Glossary terms: Poverty, Racial/ethnic group
Data Source: American Community Survey (ACS)