The federal relief efforts that were part of the COVID-19 recovery plan did not improve the poverty levels in the United states. The number of people living in poverty in 2020 was 3.3 million higher than in 2019. Poverty rates among children also rose. As the economy recovered strongly in 2021, the numbers almost certainly reversed themselves, but the number of people who live below the poverty line continues to be well into the millions. Again, a large portion of these people, unfortunately, are children.
Childhood poverty can negatively impact brain development and has been linked with a greater likelihood of chronic illness, shorter life expectancy and poor emotional and behavioral health. Those who spend some or all of their childhood in poverty are also less likely to be successful academically or, later in life, economically.
Nationwide, an estimated 17.5% of children under age 18 live below the poverty line. This share varies by state, however, and in some parts of the country, child poverty is far more common than average. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the state with the highest child poverty rate.
Among the 50 states, child poverty rates range from nearly 9% to over 25%. While states with the lowest child poverty rates span the country, those with the highest child poverty rates are overwhelmingly concentrated in the South.
Families in states with the highest child poverty rates are far more likely than the average American family to depend on government assistance to afford basic necessities. In each of the 15 states with the highest child poverty rates, the share of households with children receiving SNAP benefits, or food stamps, exceeds the 5.6% national share.
The state with the most children living below the poverty line is Mississippi. Here are the details:
- Child poverty rate: 27.6%
- Median family income, households with children: $54,822 (the lowest)
- Share of households with children receiving SNAP benefits: 7.8% (second highest)
Methodology: To determine the state where the most children live in poverty, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of child poverty rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey (ACS).
States were ranked based on the share of children living in poverty. To break ties, we used the number of children living in poverty.
Additional information on the median income for families with children and the share of households with children receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are also five-year estimates from the 2020 ACS. Because the Census Bureau did not release one-year estimates for 2020 due to data collection issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all ACS data are five-year estimates.
Click here to see all the states where the most children live in poverty.
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