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Child Poverty Rate Dips But Remains Disproportionately High in U.S.

By Andrew Ujifusa — September 15, 2017 2 min read
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Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau released earlier this week show while the child poverty rate has declined slightly, children represent an outsized share of all those living in distressed economic circumstances.

On Tuesday, the Census Bureau reported that the child poverty rate declined from 19.7 percent in 2015 to 18 percent in 2016. That tracked with an overall decline in the poverty rate of .8 percentage points, from 13.5 percent to 12.7 percent, over the same period. It’s the lowest child poverty has been since 2007. However, although children under 18 made up 23 percent of the population, they made up 33 percent of those living in poverty in the 2016 numbers, the advocacy group First Focus noted in a statement.

And for black and Hispanic students, the numbers are more alarming: The 2016 numbers show 30.8 percent of black children and 26.6 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty.

In addition, nearly one-fifth of children under age 6 were living in households below the poverty line.

The impacts of poverty on education is one of the more intensely studied areas in K-12 policy. However, the best approaches to address the issues in schools, and how schools can work with other community and government entities to help students in poverty, remain a thorny and controversial puzzle.

In a letter earlier this week to congressional leaders, the Child Poverty Action Group, a coalition of children’s advocacy organizations, urged lawmakers to make significant investments in government anti-poverty programs.

“We need Congress to commit to further investments in programs and strategies that are effective in supporting children’s development and educational attainment as well as supporting parents and caregivers in securing and maintaining quality employment,” said the coalition, which includes the National Association for the Education of Young Children and UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza).

A supplemental poverty measure also released this week by the Census details how federal programs and personal expenses affect child poverty rates. As the chart below shows, the number of children in poverty drops by millions when federal programs such as refundable tax credits and food subsidies at school and home are taken into account:

With Congress under Republican control, however, getting additional funding for social welfare programs might be a tough challenge.

For trends with and without the supplemental poverty measure, see the chart below:

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