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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 2011-2015.

Measure Tabs


Reason for Ranking

Poverty can result in an increased risk of mortality, morbidity, depression, intimate partner violence, and poor health behaviors. A 1990 study found that if poverty were considered a cause of death in the US, it would rank among the top 10 causes.[1] While negative health effects resulting from poverty are present at all ages, children in poverty experience greater morbidity and mortality than adults due to increased risk of accidental injury and lack of health care access.[2,3] Children’s risk of poor health and premature mortality may also be increased due to the poor educational achievement associated with poverty. 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.

Explore the Data