U.S. Child Poverty Rates Increase Despite Rising National Incomes

(August 2008) Household incomes increased in the United States for the third straight year, yet the poverty rate has not budged, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The child poverty rate reached its highest level since 1998.

Most of the information in the latest Census Bureau release was good news: Median household income increased (to $50,233); income inequality declined slightly; and the number of uninsured children dropped from 8.7 million in 2006 to 8.1 million in 2007, a 7 percent decrease.

But the latest census data also showed an increase in child poverty, from 17 percent to 18 percent between 2006 and 2007. Most of this increase was driven by worsening economic conditions among children in African American and Latino families. In 2007, more than a third of black children and over a quarter of Latino children were poor, compared to 1 in 10 non-Hispanic white children.

The data also showed a growing gap in economic well-being between the population under age 18 and those ages 65 and older. In 2007, the child poverty rate (18 percent) was 8 percentage points higher than the poverty rate for elderly Americans, up from a 6 percentage-point gap in 2000.

Mark Mather is associate vice president of Domestic Programs at PRB.