New Child Poverty Data by Race and Ethnicity

Nov 18, 2011

By Stephanie Schmit

New data released from the U.S. Census provides more detail to the grim poverty statistics released in September. The new data, Child Poverty by Selected Race Groups and Hispanic Origin, provides detailed information about poverty by race and region.

Overall, one in five children (21.6 percent) in the United States is in poverty, but, not surprisingly, poverty rates by race and ethnicity vary wildly. Even though white children had the greatest numeric increase in the number of children falling into poverty (507,000), the 17 percent poverty rate for white children is significantly lower than the national average. Asian children had the lowest overall poverty rate of all children at 13 percent, a 0.7 percent increase from the previous year. Nearly one third (32.3 percent) of Hispanic children were in poverty in 2010, an increase of 1.5 percent. Consistent with trends in the overall poverty rate, black children had the highest poverty rate among all groups at 38.2 percent. Racial and ethnic minority children make up a disproportionate share of those in poverty relative to their representation in the broader population. Regardless of the racial and ethnic disparities, however, all children experienced increased poverty from 2009 to 2010.

Child poverty varies by region. More than half the states experienced an increase in child poverty, and the 10 states with child poverty rates above 25 percent were in the South (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia).

Circumstances are not improving for children in our country--and in fact are worsening. We know from research that, among other negative factors, children living in poverty are less likely to be successful in school and in life. Lawmakers should focus on policy changes that reduce poverty so that children are able to enter school ready to learn and succeed once they are there. Moreover, policymakers and others must be cognizant of the disparities among races and ensure that policy solutions address not just poverty, but the inequality among groups. Improving the odds for all children will require policies that are deliberate in their focus on improving conditions for racial and ethnic groups. 

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