Poverty poses a serious challenge to children's access to quality learning opportunities and their potential to succeed in school. Research has suggested that growing up in poverty can negatively impact children's mental and behavioral development as well as their overall health, making it more difficult for them to learn (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, and Klebanov 1994; Pollitt 1994). In 2005, some 16 percent of the 38.1 million families with children under 18 residing in the United States (total not shown in tables) were living in poverty. However, the percentage of these families living in poverty varied between 4 and 47 percent when considering race/ethnicity and family type.7
The overall percentages of families with children in poverty were higher for Blacks, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (ranging between 20 and 30 percent) than for Whites and Asians (both 10 percent). The percentages of families with children in poverty headed by a female with no husband present were higher for Hispanic (47 percent), Black (44 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native families (44 percent) than those for families of the same type for White (31 percent) and Asian families (27 percent). Although there appear to be differences between the percentage of families with children in poverty headed by a female with no husband present for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders and the percentages for other race/ethnicity families of the same type, no measurable differences were found due to high standard errors. For families with children headed by a male with no wife present, the percentages in poverty for American Indian/Alaska Native (33 percent) and Black families (27 percent) were higher than the percentage of Hispanic families in poverty (23 percent) followed by the percentages for Asian (17 percent) and White families (14 percent). Within married-couple families with children, a smaller percentage of White families were living in poverty (4 percent) than was the case for Asian families (8 percent), Black (10 percent), Hispanic (17 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (14 percent), and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander families (15 percent).
In general, across racial/ethnic groups, families headed by females with no husband present were the most likely to be living in poverty, followed by families headed by males with no wife present and then married-couple families. For instance, 44 percent of all Black female householder, no husband present families with children lived in poverty in 2005, while 27 percent of Black male householder, no wife present families with children and 10 percent of Black married-couple families with children lived in poverty.
Snapshot of Hispanic and Asian subgroups: Families with Children Living in Poverty
In 2005, there were 6.3 million Hispanic and 1.7 million Asian families with children under 18 (data not shown). Approximately 26 percent of these Hispanic and 10 percent of these Asian families were living in poverty.
Overall, a higher percentage of Hispanic families with children were living in poverty than the national percentage of families with children living in poverty. Some 34 percent of Dominican, 28 percent Puerto Rican, 27 percent of Mexican, 22 percent of Central American, and 20 percent of Other Hispanic or Latino families with children were living in poverty, compared to the national estimate of 16 percent. The percentage of families of South American heritage living in poverty was not measurably different from the national percentage.
A smaller percentage of Asian families with children were living in poverty than the national percentage of families with children in poverty. Specifically, percentages for Filipino (6 percent), Asian Indian and Japanese (7 percent each), Chinese (10 percent), and Korean (11 percent) families with children in poverty were smaller than the national percentage (16 percent), while the percentage of Other Asian (19 percent) families with children living in poverty was higher than the national percentage. The percentage for Vietnamese families with children living in poverty was not measurably different from the national estimate of such families.