Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. ES 1.2 Children in Poverty

01/01/2000

Being raised in economically deprived circumstances can have far-reaching negative consequences for children. Growing up at or near the poverty line ($16,530 for a family of four in 1998) means not only that a child has a much lower level of consumption than other children but also that he or she is more likely than a nonpoor child to experience difficulties in school,5 to become a teen parent,6 and, as an adult, to earn less and experience greater unemployment.7 The effects of being raised in a family with income significantly below the poverty line are correspondingly more damaging.8

Differences by Family Structure. The chances of a child experiencing poverty are strongly influenced by the type of family in which he or she lives. Throughout the period from 1960 through 1994, over half of the children living in female-headed families were poor. This percentage decreased in the late nineties to 46 in 1998 (see Table ES 1.2.A). In contrast, during the 1990s, only about 10 percent of children living in married-couple families were poor (see Figure ES 1.2.A).

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin. The proportion of black and Hispanic children at or below 100 percent of the poverty line has declined between 1996 and 1998 (from 40 percent to 36 percent for black children and from 40 percent to 34 percent for Hispanic children). In contrast, the proportion of white children dropped only slightly from 16 percent to 14 percent. There was also a significant drop between 1996 and 1998 in the proportion of black and Hispanic children living at or below 200 percent of the poverty line (from 68 percent to 64 percent for black children and from 72 percent to 66 percent for Hispanic children) (see Table ES 1.2.B).

Children At, Below, and Slightly Above the Poverty Level. Figures ES 1.2.B and ES 1.2.C illustrate trends in the proportions of children living in various degrees of poverty and near-poverty.

  • Children in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line. Between 1975 and 1993, the proportion of children living in extreme poverty, that is, at or below 50 percent of the poverty line, doubled from 5 percent in 1975 to 10 percent by 1993. By 1998, this percentage had dropped back to 8 percent (see Table ES 1.2.B).
  • Children in families with incomes at or below the poverty line. Less dramatic but still striking, the proportion of children at or below 100 percent of the poverty line increased by 31 percent9 from 17 percent in 1975 to 22 percent by 1993 before dropping to 18 percent in 1998 (see Figure ES 1.2.A).
  • Children above but near the poverty line. In contrast, the proportion of children living at or below 150 percent of the poverty line was about the same in 1998 (29 percent) as it was in 1975 (30 percent). As shown in the upper line of Figure ES 1.2.C, the proportion of children living at or below 200 percent of the poverty line in 1998 was 40 percent, compared with 43 percent in 1975.

Table ES 1.2.A Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 living below the poverty level,a by family structure, age, and race and Hispanic origin:b Selected years, 1960-1998

  1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
All families with related children under age 18 26 21 15 17 18 20 20 21 22 22 21 20 20 19 18
White 20 14 10 12 13 16 15 16 16 17 16 16 16 15 14
Black 42 41 42 43 44 46 46 46 43 41 40 37 36
Hispanic 33 33 40 38 40 39 40 41 39 40 36 34
Asian 17 17 16 18 18 19 19 20
Related children ages 6-17 14 16 17 19 18 19 19 20 19 18 18 18 21
White 10 12 12 14 14 15 15 15 15 14 14 14 17
Black 41 42 40 41 41 42 43 43 40 37 37 35 35
Hispanic 32 39 36 37 37 38 39 37 38 35 32
                               
Related children under age 6 17 18 20 23 23 24 26 26 25 24 23 22 17
White 12 14 16 18 18 19 20 20 19 18 18 18 13
Black 42 41 45 47 50 51 53 52 49 49 45 40 35
Hispanic 34 41 40 44 43 43 44 42 42 38 32
Married-couple families with related children under age 18 10 11 11 12 11 10 10 9 9
White 9 10 10 11 10 9 9 9 8
Black 18 15 18 18 15 13 14 13 12
Hispanic 26 29 29 30 30 28 29 26 23
Asian 16 15 15
Related children ages 6-17 9 10 10 11 10 9 9 9 10
White 8 9 9 10 9 9 8 8 10
Black 17 14 16 17 14 12 14 13 10
Hispanic 25 26 26 28 28 27 28 25 25
Related children under age 6 12 12 13 13 12 11 12 11 8
White 11 11 12 13 11 11 11 10 8
Black 20 17 22 20 15 14 14 13 13
Hispanic 28 33 32 33 33 31 32 28 22
Female-headed families with related children under age 18 68 64 59 53 51 54 53 55 55 54 53 50 49 49 46
White 60 53 43 44 42 45 46 47 46 46 46 42 43 44 40
Black 68 66 65 67 65 68 67 6 63 62 58 55 55
Hispanic 65 72 68 69 66 66 68 66 67 63 60
Related children                              
ages 6-17 49 49 46 48 47 50 49 48 47 45 45 45 55
White 38 40 36 40 39 41 39 40 40 37 38 39 50
Black 66 66 62 63 60 65 63 62 59 56 55 53 60
Hispanic 62 70 64 65 62 63 65 62 65 60 67
Related children under age 6 64 62 65 66 66 66 66 64 64 62 59 59 42
White 59 58 60 59 60 60 61 58 59 55 54 57 36
Black 71 67 72 75 73 74 73 72 70 71 64 61 52
Hispanic 70 78 77 74 72 72 74 72 72 68 55

a The poverty level is based on money income and does not include noncash benefits, such as Food Stamps. Poverty thresholds reflect family size and composition and are adjusted each year using the annual average Consumer Price Index (CPI) level. The average poverty threshold for a family of four was $16,530 in 1998. Related children include biological children, stepchildren, and adopted children of the householder and all other children in the household related to the householder (or reference person) by blood, marriage, or adoption.

b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Estimates for whites, blacks, and Asians include persons of Hispanic origin.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, 4; 86, Table 1; 106, Table 11; 133, Table 11; 158, Table 7; 175, Table 6; 181, Table 5; 185, Revised Table 6; 188, Table 8; 189, Table 9; 194, Table 2; 198, Table 2; and 201, Tables 2, A-1, and C-2; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, The Asian and Pacific Islander Population,Table 8; 77, Table 5; and 81, Table 5.

Figure ES 1.2.A Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 living below the poverty level,a by family type: Selected years, 1960-1998

Figure ES 1.2.A Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 living below the poverty level,a by family type: Selected years, 1960-1998

a The poverty level is based on money income and does not include noncash benefits, such as Food Stamps. Poverty thresholds reflect family size and composition and are adjusted each year using the annual average Consumer Price Index (CPI) level. The average poverty threshold for a family of four was $16,530 in 1998. Related children include biological children, stepchildren, and adopted children of the householder and all other children in the household related to the householder (or reference person) by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, no. 81, Table 4; no. 86, Table 1; no. 106, Table 11; no. 133, Table 11; no. 158, Table 7; no. 175, Table 6; no. 181, Table 5; no. 185, Revised Table 6; no. 188, Table 8; no. 189, Table 9; no. 194, Table 2; no. 198, Table 2; and no. 201, Tables 2, A-1, and C-2.


Table ES 1.2.B Percentage of children in the United States under age 18 living below selected povertya thresholds, by age and by race and Hispanic origin:b Selected years, 1975-1998

  1975 1980 1985 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
Under 50% of poverty
Related children under age 18 5 7 8 8 9 10 10 9 8 8 8 8
White 4 5 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 5
Black 14 17 21 22 25 27 26 23 20 20 19 17
Hispanic 14 14 15 14 17 16 14 16 13
Under 100% of poverty
Related children under age 18 17 18 20 20 21 22 22 21 20 20 19 18
White 12 13 16 15 16 16 17 16 16 16 15 14
Black 41 42 43 44 46 46 46 43 41 40 37 36
Hispanic 33 33 40 38 40 39 40 41 39 40 36 34
Under 150%                        
of poverty                        
Related children                        
under age 18 30 29 32 31 32 33 33 32 32 31 30 29
White 24 24 26 25 26 27 27 27 26 26 26 24
Black 60 57 59 57 60 60 61 58 56 56 51 52
Hispanic 55 58 58 59 58 59 57 56 52
Under 200%                        
of poverty                        
Related children                        
under age 18 43 42 43 42 43 44 44 43 43 43 41 40
White 38 37 38 37 38 38 38 38 37 37 36 34
Black 73 70 71 68 70 71 72 68 68 68 64 64
Hispanic 69 71 70 72 72 72 72 69 66

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