Despite an improving economy, new government data show that 15.5 million children or more than one in five, about 21.1%, were poor with young children in black or Hispanic families faring the worst.
Young children are the most likely to be poor, despite the evidence that poverty at an early age is particularly damaging. Almost 24% of children under age 5, or 4.7 million, were poor in 2014, as were almost one in four of infants (birth to age 1), according to Census Bureau statistics for 2014.
The threshold for poverty, according to the government, is income under $19,073 for a family consisting of one parent and two related children. About 9%—6.5 million—were in “deeply poor” families with cash incomes under half of the poverty level. Adults were far less likely to be poor—13.5%—and to be deeply poor—6.4%—than children.
While high for all children, poverty is particularly devastating for children of color. In 2014, 37.1% of Black children lived in poverty and 18.2% in deep poverty, compared to 12.3% and 5.4% for non-Hispanic white children. For Hispanic children, the corresponding shares were 31.9% and 12.9%. The largest group of poor children was Hispanic (5.7 million), followed by non-Hispanic white children (4.7 million) and Black children (4.1 million).
The same disproportionate poverty affects young adults of color. In 2014, the poverty rate for Black and Hispanic young adults was 29% and 22.4% respectively, compared to 16.1% for non-Hispanic whites and 19.8% for Asians. However, even though the share is larger for young adults of color, non-Hispanic whites were the largest group of poor young adults (2.6 million).
The Center for Law and Social Policy, a national anti-poverty advocate, recommends that Congress improve the core income and work support programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Lawmakers should also build a strong foundation in life for young children, including quality child care and two-generational strategies that support parents in both working and raising children; improving pathways to education and careers and expand access to quality jobs.