Children in poverty

Children in Poverty is the percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty. Poverty status is defined by family; either everyone in the family is in poverty or no one in the family is in poverty. The characteristics of the family used to determine the poverty threshold are: number of people, number of related children under 18, and whether or not the primary householder is over age 65. Family income is then compared to the poverty threshold; if that family's income is below that threshold, the family is in poverty. For more information, please see Poverty Definition and/or Poverty.

In the data table for this measure, we report child poverty rates for black, Hispanic and white children. The rates for race and ethnic groups come from the American Community Survey, which is the major source of data used by the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates to construct the overall county estimates. However, estimates for race and ethnic groups are created using combined five year estimates from 2012-2016.

Measure Tabs

Reason for Ranking

Poverty can result in an increased risk of mortality, morbidity, depression, and poor health behaviors.  A 2011 study found that poverty and other social factors contribute a number of deaths comparable to leading causes of death in the US like heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer.[1] While repercussions resulting from poverty are present at all ages, children in poverty may experience lasting effects on academic achievement, health, and income into adulthood. Low-income children have an increased risk of injuries from accidents and physical abuse and are susceptible to more frequent and severe chronic conditions and their complications such as asthma, obesity, and diabetes than children living in high income households.[2]

Beginning in early childhood, poverty takes a toll on mental health and brain development, particularly in the areas associated with skills essential for educational success such as cognitive flexibility, sustained focus, and planning.  Low income children are more susceptible to mental health conditions like ADHD, behavior disorders, and anxiety which can limit learning opportunities and social competence leading to academic deficits that may persist into adulthood.[2,3] The children in poverty measure is highly correlated with overall poverty rates.

Measurement Strengths and Limitations

Children in poverty captures an upstream measure of poverty that assesses both current and future health risk. Because it is benchmarked to federal poverty thresholds, it is an absolute measure of poverty, and an effective predictor of adverse health outcomes. Children are at a greater risk for poverty, so this measure is more sensitive to changes in poverty levels. Headcount measures of poverty alone, however, do not account for the level of economic deprivation, and greater deprivation is correlated with worse health outcomes.[4]

This measure is modeled using data from the American Community Survey, in order to provide single-year poverty estimates for every county in the nation.