Child Poverty in America - Facts, Statistics | United Way NCA (2023)

Childhood poverty is a tragic problem affecting millions of children in America. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, over 11 million kids in the United States live below the federal poverty line. That means that these children are growing up without access to basic necessities like food, shelter, and healthcare.

The effects of childhood poverty can be devastating and include poor health, education, and employment outcomes. However, there is hope. Organizations like United Way NCA are working to fight childhood poverty in local communities across America. You can help too. Learn more about the issue and how you can get involved.

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How does poverty impact a child?

According to US Census Bureau, the child poverty rate in America is 16% nationwide as of 2020. This amounts to 11.6 million children living in poverty in the United States.

Child poverty can have a profound and lasting impact on a person’s life. Growing up in poverty can lead to poorer health outcomes, lower educational attainment, and increased difficulty finding employment as an adult. Children who experience poverty are also more likely to experience food insecurity, poor housing, and limited access to healthcare. All of these factors can contribute to a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break.

The effects of child poverty are not limited to the individual level. Poor children are also more likely to grow up to be poor adults, which can have a negative impact on the economy as a whole. In addition, child poverty can lead to increased crime rates and social problems. Therefore, it is important to address the issue of child poverty in order to improve the lives of individual children and the health of society as a whole.

What is the Main Cause of Child Poverty?

The causes of child poverty are complex, but they are directly related to adult poverty. The costs and occasional unexpected expenses associated with raising children can be one of many reasons why families become impoverished. Reasons why the child poverty rate is so high in the U.S. include job loss, pay cuts, divorce or separation, and disabilities. According to a report from the National Center for Children in Poverty, nearly half of all children in the U.S. live in low-income families, and more than one in five live in poverty.

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Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to experience a range of health problems, cognitive delays, and educational difficulties. They are also more likely to become trapped in a cycle of poverty as adults. It is clear that childhood poverty has a profound and lasting impact on individuals and society as a whole. That is why it is so important to address the issue head-on. By doing so, we can give children a better chance at achieving their full potential.

Here are some of the most common causes of childhood poverty:

Lack of Social Services

Childhood poverty is a complex issue with multiple causes, but lack of social services can play a significant role. In many low-income areas, there may be limited access to healthcare, education, and other services that can support families and provide opportunities for children to succeed. Without these resources, it can be difficult for parents to provide for their children and break the cycle of poverty. Additionally, cuts to social service programs can further exacerbate the issue. It’s important for government and community leaders to prioritize funding and access to social services in order to address childhood poverty.

Lack of Education

Without a proper education, children from impoverished backgrounds are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding employment and upward mobility when they grow up to be adults. They often do not have the skills or knowledge necessary for successful careers, leading to a cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape. Additionally, education can provide valuable resources and support for families in need, such as free meals and healthcare. Without access to these resources, poverty is more likely to persist. Investing in education for disadvantaged children can break the cycle of poverty and create opportunities for a better future.

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Discrimination and Disabilities

Things like racial discrimination and disabilities can contribute to childhood poverty in multiple ways. For example, people of color often face systemic barriers in education and employment opportunities, leading to lower income levels and difficulty providing for their families. Similarly, individuals with disabilities may also face challenges in finding and maintaining steady employment, leading to financial hardship for their families. These forms of discrimination can also lead to higher rates of incarceration for individuals from marginalized communities, further exacerbating the issue of poverty within those communities. It is important to address and eradicate these forms of discrimination in order to address childhood poverty at its roots.

How Does Poverty Impact Children?

Children who grow up in poverty often face a number of challenges that can negatively impact their growth and development. For example, hunger and illness can lead to delayed physical development, while things like housing insecurity and instability can cause cognitive delays.

In addition, poverty has been linked with academic underachievement, behavior problems, and social and emotional issues. As a result, it is important to provide support to children who are growing up in poverty-stricken environments. This may include access to healthcare, nutritious food, safe housing, and quality educational opportunities. By helping to address the needs of these children, we can help to break the cycle of poverty and give them a chance to reach their full potential.

Hunger and Malnutrition

Hunger and malnutrition are serious consequences of child poverty. Children who live in poverty often do not have access to enough nutritious food, leading to chronic hunger and malnutrition. These issues can have long-term effects on a child’s physical and cognitive development, potentially impacting their future success and overall well-being. It is important to address child poverty in order to improve access to healthy food and reduce the devastating effects of hunger and malnutrition.

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Housing Insecurity

One consequence of child poverty is housing insecurity, which can include living in overcrowded or unsafe housing, frequent moves, and even homelessness. Children who experience this kind of instability often struggle in school and face a higher risk for physical and mental health issues. Ensuring access to stable, affordable housing is an important step in improving outcomes for children living in poverty.

Behavioral and Academic Issues

Child poverty can have a significant impact on a child’s behavior and academic performance. Research has shown that children living in poverty are more likely to exhibit disruptive behaviors, struggle with concentration and attention, and have lower academic achievement. These challenges can further perpetuate the cycle of poverty as children from low-income households are less likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. It is important for communities to address the root causes of poverty and provide resources and support for families in need to ensure that all children have equal opportunities for success.

How to Fight Child Poverty in Your Community

According to the 2022 ALICE in Focus: Children-D.C. report, 54% of children in Washington, DC live below the ALICE threshold. ALICE represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working but are unable to afford basic necessities. One way to get involved in the fight against child poverty in our community is by participating in United Way NCA’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Through this program, trained volunteers provide free tax preparation services for low-income families, helping them access important tax credits and financial aid. Additionally, United Way NCA’s Weekend Hunger Backpack Program focuses on increasing access to healthy food options in under-served communities. By helping cover the weekend gap when children cannot depend on school cafeterias for meals, we can work towards ending childhood hunger.

To learn more, check out our work with the ALICE population, contact us today, or make a donation and do your part to end child poverty.

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What is the child poverty rate in the United States? ›

The child poverty rate (for people under age 18) was 16.9% in 2021, 4.2 percentage points higher than the national rate, while poverty for those ages 65 and over was 10.3%, 2.5 percentage points lower than the national rate.

What is the child poverty rate in the US 2022? ›

“The monthly child poverty rate increased from 12.1 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022, the highest rate since the end of 2020. The 4.9 percentage point (41 percent) increase in poverty represents 3.7 million more children in poverty due to the expiration of the monthly Child Tax Credit payments.

Why is child poverty so high in the United States? ›

The causes of child poverty cannot be separated from those of adult poverty. Expenses associated with raising children are one of the many reasons that families fall into poverty, along with job losses and pay cuts, a transition from a two-parent household to a single one, and a family member developing a disability.

What percentage of children live in poverty? ›

Child poverty, calculated by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), fell to its lowest recorded level in 2021, declining 46% from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

What is 100% of the US poverty level? ›

48 Contiguous States and D.C.
Persons in Household48 Contiguous States and D.C. Poverty Guidelines (Annual)
6 more rows

Who has the highest child poverty rate? ›

Among the OECD countries, Turkey had the highest share of children living in poverty, reaching 22.7 percent in 2018.
Proportion of children living in poverty in the OECD countries in 2019.
CharacteristicProportion of children in poverty
11 more rows
5 Aug 2022

What causes poverty? ›

This might seem like a no-brainer: Without a job or a livelihood, people will face poverty. Dwindling access to productive land (often due to conflict, overpopulation, or climate change) and overexploitation of resources like fish or minerals puts increasing pressure on many traditional livelihoods.

Is poverty increasing or decreasing 2022? ›

The World Bank estimates that around 8.5 percent of the world's population (685 million people) could be extremely poor by the end of 2022, and that poverty is now declining at a very slow rate of only 2 percent a year.

What are 5 causes of poverty in the United States? ›

But first, we need to understand what poverty is – and what causes it.
  • Lack of access to clean water and nutritious food.
  • Lack of access to basic healthcare.
  • Inequality or social injustice.
  • Lack of education.
  • Poor basic infrastructure.
  • Climate change.
  • Lack of government support.
1 Mar 2022

How can we solve child poverty? ›

Ensure more children and youth have the support they need from the start: : To reduce child poverty long term, children also need access to affordable, comprehensive physical and behavioral health care, affordable high-quality early development and learning opportunities, including child care, robust Head Start and ...

What percent of the US is in poverty 2022? ›

SEPT. 13, 2022 — The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income in 2021 was not statistically different than 2020. The official poverty rate of 11.6% was also not statistically different between 2020 and 2021.

What age is poverty most? ›

In 2021 the poverty rate in the United States was highest among people under the age of 18, with a rate of 16.87 percent for male Americans and a rate of 17 percent for female Americans. The lowest poverty rate for both men and women was for those aged between 65 and 74.

What are 5 effects of poverty? ›

Poverty is associated with substandard housing, hunger, homelessness, inadequate childcare, unsafe neighborhoods, and under-resourced schools.

Is child poverty a big issue? ›

An estimated 356 million children live in extreme poverty. The consequences are grave. Worldwide, the poorest children are twice as likely to die in childhood than their wealthier peers.

What is 150% of the current poverty level? ›

Household Size150% of HHS Poverty Guidelines*200% of HHS Poverty Guidelines*
5 more rows
19 Jan 2022

When was the US poverty rate the highest? ›

The highest poverty rate on record was 22 percent (1950s). The lowest was 10.5% (2019).

What percentage of us is poverty? ›

The official poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6 percent, with 37.9 million people in poverty.

How often is a child born into poverty? ›

Other supports for parents, such as home-visiting programs, could help children by improving family functioning and the home environment. 13 percent of all children (40 percent of black children and 8 percent of white children) are born poor.

What city has the most child poverty? ›

Syracuse city, New York

Does poverty show up in children's brains? ›

Recent studies analyzing the MRI brain scans over the course of children's lives have shown that children from poor and near-poor households have significantly lower average overall frontal and parietal lobe volumes of gray matter than children from wealthier families.

How can I be without poverty? ›

Eradicating poverty in all its forms remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.
The SDG Fund response
  1. Create opportunities for good and decent jobs and secure livelihoods.
  2. Support inclusive and sustainable business practices.
  3. Promote better government policies and fair and accountable public institutions.

What the Bible Says About poverty? ›

Luke 6:20-21 (NIV)

“Looking at his disciples, he said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. '”

Why do we need to end poverty? ›

Because poverty and inequities hurt all of us in the long run. They erode social cohesion and create a burden on all taxpayers to pay for poverty reduction, healthcare services, unemployment, crime and homelessness. Our economic system and well-being are at risk of serious deterioration unless we take action now.

What are the 3 types of poverty? ›

There are multiple types of poverty.
  • Situational poverty.
  • Generational poverty.
  • Absolute poverty.
  • Relative poverty.
  • Urban poverty.
  • Rural poverty.
12 Nov 2021

Why is it called poverty? ›

Poverty refers to a lack of wealth or income such that individuals and households do not have the means to subsist or acquire the basic necessities for a flourishing life. This means being so poor as to struggle to obtain food, clothing, shelter, and medicines.

Is poverty a choice? ›

Poverty is not a personal choice. It is the result of political decisions and social acceptance of a certain state of affairs.

Can poverty be ended? ›

Poverty cannot be eradicated without addressing the pervasive inequalities in incomes and economic opportunities between and within countries, between rural and urban areas, and between men and women.

Will there be poverty in 2030? ›

The world is unlikely to meet a longstanding goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, the World Bank has said, citing the effects of “extraordinary” shocks to the global economy, including the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Will there be poverty in 2050? ›

If the lagging non-OECD2 countries are able to transition to a sustainable higher growth path, the global poverty ratio will fall from about 21 percent in 2005 to less than 2.5 percent in 2050, and the number of people living in absolute poverty will decline by another billion.

Who discovered poverty? ›

The current official poverty measure was developed in the mid 1960s by Mollie Orshansky, a staff economist at the Social Security Administration. Poverty thresholds were derived from the cost of a minimum food diet multiplied by three to account for other family expenses.

Who is most affected by poverty in the United States? ›

U.S. Poverty Statistics – Race

While the poverty rate for the population as a whole is 11.6% the rate varies greatly by race. Blacks have the highest poverty rate at 19.5% and Non-Hispanic whites have the lowest at 8.1%. The Poverty rate for Blacks and Hispanics is more than double that of non-Hispanic Whites.

What are 10 causes of poverty? ›

poverty, the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. Poverty is said to exist when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs. In this context, the identification of poor people first requires a determination of what constitutes basic needs.

Why is child poverty a problem? ›

Poverty has negative impacts on children's health, social, emotional and cognitive development, behaviour and educational outcomes. Children born into poverty are more likely to experience a wide range of health problems, including poor nutrition, chronic disease and mental health problems.

Why should we stop child poverty? ›

The impact on their lives, and society, is immense. Children in poverty are less likely to receive a good education, thereby limiting their chances at a fulfilling life and perpetuating generational poverty. They are more likely to be forced into child labour, early marriage and other forms of exploitation.

What does poverty do to a child? ›

Particularly at its extremes, poverty can negatively affect how the body and mind develop, and can actually alter the fundamental architecture of the brain. Children who experience poverty have an increased likelihood, extending into adulthood, for numerous chronic illnesses, and for a shortened life expectancy.

What country has the most poverty 2022? ›

According to World Bank, the countries with the highest poverty rates in the world are:
  • South Sudan - 82.30%
  • Equatorial Guinea - 76.80%
  • Madagascar - 70.70%
  • Guinea-Bissau - 69.30%
  • Eritrea - 69.00%
  • Sao Tome and Principe - 66.70%
  • Burundi - 64.90%
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo - 63.90%

How many children are in the US by 2022? ›

Number (in millions)19501962
Number (in millions)20102022
All children74.174.3
Ages 0–524.324.8
23 more rows

How many people are suffering from poverty 2022? ›

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis are accounted for, the data shows that 1.2 billion people in 111 developing countries live in acute multidimensional poverty. This is nearly double the number who are seen as poor when poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day.

Which gender is more in poverty? ›

Women of nearly all races and ethnicities face higher rates of poverty than their male counterparts.

Do poor people age faster? ›

They found that after about eight years, those at the lower wealth levels saw "accelerated decline" in physical health, cognitive ability, emotional well-being, and social traits.

Who has the lowest poverty rate? ›

Iceland stands at the top of countries with the lowest poverty rates with a poverty rate of 4.9% in 2021. In 2017, Iceland's poverty rate even hit 0%, according to the World Bank.

Is poverty a social problem? ›

Ultimately, poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens to divide a nation because of income inequality. This occurs when the wealth of a country is poorly distributed among its citizens—when a tiny minority has a majority of the money.

What will happen if poverty is not solved? ›

Poverty costs our economy billions of dollars annually

Child poverty alone is estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $500 billion annually in lost productivity, increased health care costs, and higher criminal-justice expenditures.

What does poverty feel like? ›

physical pain that comes with too little food and long hours of work; emotional pain stemming from the daily humiliations of dependency and lack of power; moral pain from being forced to make choices such as whether to pay to save the life of an ill family member or use the money to feed their children.

Where does US rank in child poverty? ›

According to a UNICEF study of child poverty in 35 developed countries, the United States is ranked second after Romania, with a rate of 23.1%. Ranked last on the list was Iceland with a meager rate of 4.7%.

What are 3 consequences of poverty? ›

The direct consequences of poverty are well-known — limited access to food, water, health care or education are a few examples.

What is America's poverty 2022? ›

The 2022 poverty line for a family of four in America is $27,750. It's risen by nearly $10,000 since the year 2000.

What is the poverty line 2022 USA? ›

HHS Poverty Guidelines for 2022
Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
6 more rows

Where are child poverty rates the highest in the US? ›

Syracuse city, New York

What is the main cause of child poverty? ›

Lack of Social Services

In many low-income areas, there may be limited access to healthcare, education, and other services that can support families and provide opportunities for children to succeed. Without these resources, it can be difficult for parents to provide for their children and break the cycle of poverty.

What are 5 facts about poverty? ›

Top 20 Global Poverty Facts

Nearly 22,000 children die each day due to living in poverty. There are 2.2 billion children in the world, and 1 billion of them live in poverty. A third of all poor in developing countries are children aged zero to 12.

Is poverty decreasing in the US? ›

Supplemental Poverty Measure

The SPM child poverty rate fell 46 percent in 2021, from 9.7 percent in 2020 to 5.2 percent in 2021, a 4.5 percentage-point decline.

What country has the lowest poverty rate 2022? ›

According to the latest available data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Iceland, the Czech Republic and Denmark stand as the countries with the lowest poverty rates in the world.

How can we stop child poverty? ›

Researchers conducted two simulations or projections for each policy area to explore the effects that different versions of the expansion might have.
  1. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) ...
  2. Expand Child Care Subsidies. ...
  3. Raise the Federal Minimum Wage. ...
  4. Implement the 'WorkAdvance' National Training/Employment Program.
6 Mar 2019

How can the US reduce child poverty? ›

Ensure more children and youth have the support they need from the start: : To reduce child poverty long term, children also need access to affordable, comprehensive physical and behavioral health care, affordable high-quality early development and learning opportunities, including child care, robust Head Start and ...

Why is poverty a problem in the US? ›

Poverty and economic inequality are pressing human rights problems in the United States. For many residents living in poverty, certain human rights are out of reach. They may lack access to safe work conditions, housing, education, health services, or clean water and basic sanitation.

What is the largest cause of poverty? ›

The United Nations Social Policy and Development Division identifies “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities” and more as a cause for poverty. Groups like women, religious minorities, and racial minorities are the most vulnerable.

What are the top 5 causes of poverty? ›

The top 11 causes of poverty around the world
  • Inequality. ...
  • Conflict. ...
  • Hunger, malnutrition, and stunting. ...
  • Poor healthcare systems — especially for mothers and children. ...
  • Little (or zero) access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. ...
  • Climate change. ...
  • Lack of education. ...
  • Poor public works and infrastructure.
12 Feb 2022


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