Throughout the United States, 18.4% of Americans under age 18 — a total of 13.4 million children — live in poverty, one of the highest child poverty rates of any developed nation.
Children born into poverty are likely to continue to live in impoverished circumstances as adults. In a 2017 study from the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty that tracked 18,000 individuals since 1968, researchers found that only 16% of children who spent a majority of their childhoods in poverty were living above the poverty line between the ages of 25 and 30. Poverty in America also disproportionately affects minority families and exacerbates existing socioeconomic inequalities along racial lines.
States with higher childhood poverty rates tend to perform poorly in other socioeconomic factors, such as lower educational attainment rate, higher unemployment, and higher rates of food insecurity, all of which can ultimately lead to worse health outcomes and lower life expectancy. These are places where poverty is causing bad diets.
According to a 2019 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the lower productivity, higher crime rates, and worse health outcomes that result from child poverty cost the United States between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion a year.
To help reduce child poverty, the federal government provides parents of children under 17 with the child tax credit — a tax cut worth up to $2,000 per dependent. If taxes owed are lower than the credit, families can receive up to $1,400 per child. Some states offer their own version of the child tax credit that matches some proportion of the federal tax cut. Several of the states with their own credit programs — Colorado, California, and New York — are states where welfare supports the most poor families.
To identify how many children live in poverty in your state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey. Childhood poverty refers to the share of children under the age of 18 living in households with incomes below the poverty threshold. The poverty threshold varies by family size and composition. In 2017, the Census Bureau poverty threshold for a family of three with one child under 18 years old was $19,730.