Children in Poverty

In 2005, nearly 13 million children under 18 years old lived in households with incomes below the poverty threshold ($19,971 for a family of four in 2005);1 this represents 17.6 percent of all children in the United States. Children represented more than one-third of people in poverty, but only about one-quarter of the population. Poverty affects many aspects of a child’s life, including living conditions, access to health care, and adequate nutrition, all of which contribute to health status. Black and Hispanic children are particularly vulnerable to poverty. In 2005, a much higher proportion of Black (34.5 percent) and Hispanic (28.3 percent) children under age 18 were poor than were their non-Hispanic White counterparts (10.0 percent).

Children in single-parent families are particularly likely to be poor: of children under age 6 living with a single mother, 52.9 percent lived in poverty, which was more than five times the rate of their counterparts in married-couple families. Similarly, 42.8 percent of children under 18 living with a female head of household with no husband present lived in poverty, compared to 8.5 percent of children in married-couple families (data not shown). Although they compose only 18.2 percent of all families in the United States, female-headed households represent 52.8 percent of all families in poverty.

1 Following the Office of Management and Budget’s Statistical Policy Directive 14, the Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty.

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