Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. ES 1.4 Lifetime childhood poverty

04/01/1997

The majority of children never experience poverty while growing up, and, among those who do, most are in poverty for only a small portion of their childhood. Many children, however, and particularly many black children, spend a large proportion of their formative years living in poverty, with correspondingly negative consequences for their development and well-being.9

Changes in Childhood Poverty Over Time. Although 64 percent of all children who turned age 18 between 1985 and 1987 were never poor, 10 percent were poor for six or more years through age 17 (see Figure ES 1.4.A and Table ES 1.4). Six percent were poor for eleven or more years, and 1 percent were poor for all 17 years. Children turning age 18 three years later show a similar pattern, though they were somewhat more likely to have been poor for a greater number of years, with 14 percent poor for six or more years, and 8 percent poor for eleven or more years.

Differences by Race. The risk of experiencing long-term poverty in childhood varies substantially by race (see Figure ES 1.4.B and Table ES 1.4). Of the nonblack children who turned age 18 between 1988 and 1990, 73 percent never experienced poverty while growing up, only 8 percent were poor for six or more years, and only 4 percent were poor for at least eleven years. By contrast, nearly one half (47 percent) of all black children in that cohort were poor for six or more years, 28 percent for eleven or more years, and 6 percent for all seventeen years of their childhoods.
 

Figure ES 1.4.A  
Percentage of Children in Poverty, by Number of Years in Poverty and Birth Cohort  

FIGES1_4A.GIF
Source: Estimates supplied by Greg J. Duncan, Northwestern University, based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). 

 

Figure ES 1.4.B 
Percentage of Children in Poverty by Number of Years in Poverty by Race, for Cohort Who Turned 18 Between 1988 and 1990 
 

FIGES1_4B.GIF
Source: Estimates supplied by Greg J. Duncan, Northwestern University, based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). 

 

Table ES 1.4 
Percentage of Children in Poverty by Number of Years in Poverty During Childhood, Birth Year, and Race
 

 
-------------------- Number of Years in Poverty ------------------ 
   
Never 
One or More Years 
6 or More Years 
11 or More Years 
17 Years 
 
Turned Age 18 in 1985-1987 

(1967-69 Birth Cohort)

  All children
64 
36 
10 
  Black
24 
75 
37 
23 
  Nonblack
71 
29 
 
Turned Age 18 in 1988-1990 

(1970-72 birth cohort)

  All Children
65 
35 
14 
  Black
28 
72 
47 
28 
  Nonblack
73 
27 
             
Note: * = less than one percent.
Source: Estimates supplied by Greg J. Duncan, Northwestern University, based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID).

 

9 Duncan, G. 1995. "Longitudinal Indicators of Children's Poverty and Dependence." Institute for Research on Poverty Special Report Series, SR#60b.
 

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