Children in Poverty

Narrative

In 2013, more than 16.5 million U.S. children under 18 years of age lived in households with incomes below the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty threshold ($23,834 for a family of four in 2013). This represents 22.3 percent of all children in the United States. Poverty affects many aspects of a child’s life, including living conditions, nutrition, and access to health care. In addition, significant racial and ethnic disparities exist. In 2013, nearly 50 percent of non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native children, 38.8 percent of non-Hispanic Black children, and 34.3 percent of Hispanic children lived in households with incomes below 100 percent of poverty, compared to 12.8 percent of non-Hispanic White children (Figure 1).

Households Below Poverty by Race

Figure 1 Source

Single-parent families are particularly vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, 44.7 percent of children living in a mother-headed household experienced poverty, as did 21.3 percent of children living in a father-headed household. Only 13.2 percent of children living in two-parent families lived in households with incomes below 100 percent of poverty. The proportion of children in single- and two-parent families living in poverty also varies by age. In 2013, 52.3 percent of children less than 5 years of age and 42.1 percent of children aged 5–17 years living in mother-only households were living in poverty (Figure 2).

Households Below Poverty by Family Type

Figure 2 Source

A number of federal programs work to protect the health and well-being of children living in low-income families (find more on Federal Programs to Promote Child Health). One of these is the National School Lunch Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. The program provides nutritionally balanced low-cost or free lunches to children based on household poverty level. In 2013, the average daily participation in low-cost or free lunches was about 30 million children.1

Data Sources

Figure 1. U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Analyses conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.

Figure 2. U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Analyses conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.

Endnotes

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Child Nutrition Tables. Accessed February 16, 2015.

Data

Statistical Significance Test

Calculate the difference between two estimates:

Calculated Z-Test Result 0.9567433 Not statistically significant

We follow statistical conventions in defining a significant difference by a p-value less than 0.05 where there is a less than 5% probability of observing a difference of that magnitude or greater by chance alone if there were really no difference between estimates. The 95% confidence interval includes a plausible range of values for the observed difference; 95% of random samples would include the true difference with fewer than 5% of random samples failing to capture the true difference.

This website allows comparisons between two estimates using the independent z-test for differences in rates or proportions. This test is appropriate for comparing independent populations across years (e.g., 2011 versus 2012) or subgroups (e.g., Male versus Female) on corresponding measures. To the extent possible, the functionality of this application has limited estimate comparisons based on appropriate use of the independent z-test. However, some tables present subgroup categories within broader categories that will allow comparisons between non-independent populations (e.g., low birth weight and very low birth weight). Users should exercise caution when interpreting these test results, which will frequently overstate statistical significance.

For some tables, the website does not allow for comparisons between two estimates, even though the data represent independent populations. Generally, this is because the standard errors were not publicly available at the time this website was created.

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