Poverty Rate Drops, But Not for These Children

The poverty rate among children in the U.S. has decreased, but one group continues to lag the rest.

Poverty Rate Drops, But Not for These Children Photo (cc) by desertdutchman

The poverty rate among children in the U.S. has decreased, but one group continues to lag the rest.

In fact, the child poverty rate barely budged for one of four main demographics — black children — between 2010 and 2013, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. The analysis is based on U.S. Census Bureau data for the year 2013.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of American children living in poverty decreased 2 percent, from 16.3 million to 14.7 million, or from about 22 percent to about 20 percent.

In 2013, the Census Bureau defined poverty as living in a household with an annual income below $23,624 for a family of four with two related children.

The overall decrease was due to a decrease in the number of Hispanic, white and Asian children living in poverty. The number of black children in poverty remained around 38 percent, Pew found.

The Census Bureau started tracking this data in 1974, and 2013 is possibly the first year that the total number of black children in poverty (4.2 million) surpassed the total number of white children in poverty (4.1 million).

That is true even though there are three times more white children than black children living in the United States.

Pew notes, however, that the difference between the totals is small enough to be considered statistically insignificant.

Hispanic children remained first in terms of the total number of children living in poverty, a distinction they have held since 2007. Asian children remain in fourth place, after white children.

Eileen Patten, a research analyst who tracks social trends at the Pew Research Center, tells the New York Times that she and a colleague discovered the pattern change while updating a routine graphic and decided to bring it to light:

“The fact that the trajectory has been different for blacks than for these other groups, that caught our attention. We were surprised the story had not been told like this since this data had been around for a while.”

The Census Bureau released the data in the fall.

Pew did not investigate the reason why the poverty rate among black children was the only one to remain steady.

Patten tells the New York Times, though, that one possible driver is the unemployment rate, which has been consistently higher for African-Americans than for most other racial and ethnic groups.

What’s your take on this news about child poverty? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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