Child Poverty Rates Increased During the Great Recession

On Sept. 28, 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau released 2009 poverty statistics based on the American Community Survey (ACS)*. For the second year in a row, the number of people living in poverty increased. In 2009, the overall poverty rate was 14.3 percent with 43.9 million people in poverty, compared to 13 percent in 2007. Child poverty rates also increased--from 18 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2009, almost 15 million children. Poverty rates have increased most years since the beginning of the recession in 2001 after eight years of steady decline from 1992 to 1999.

Poverty is calculated based on money income and family size. For a family of four in 2009, the poverty line was $21,954. The poverty measure does not include government benefits such as food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provide substantial supports for many low-income working families. Although this federal definition of poverty is the one most frequently used, many analysts question whether it captures the real cost of living for families, and point out that it does not include adjustments for the different costs of living across the country. Many state and federal policymakers have called for a revised poverty measure and the U.S. Census Bureau has developed an improved alternative measure (the Supplemental Poverty Measure), however, the existing federal poverty measure provides the best available basis for looking at poverty over time and across the states.

Nationally, the percentage of children growing up poorhas moved up and down with the general state of the economy. The child poverty rate reached a high in 1993 of 22.7 percent. It declined every year during the strong national economy of the 1990s, reaching a low of 16.2 percent in 2000. Like the overall poverty rate, child poverty has increased slightly most years after the 2001 recession.

The 2009 poverty rate quantifies the continuing effects of the current recession that began nationally in the last quarter of 2007. Several measures indicate that poverty has continued to rise substantially in 2010. Unemployment rates are still high at 9.6 percent in September 2010. Food stamp (SNAP) rolls have increased from 15.9 million households in June 2009 to 19.1 million in June 2010, an increase of more than 20 percent.


Chart showing child poverty rates from 1987-2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


State Child Poverty Rates

State child poverty rates vary a great deal. In 2009, they ranged from 10.8 percent in New Hampshire to 30.1 percent in Mississippi. Twenty-two states have child poverty rates at or above the national average of 20 percent, with four of those states and Washington, D.C. with child poverty rates above 25 percent. Six states have rates below 13 percent. The map below shows child poverty rates for the states in 2009.

Child Poverty Rates, 2009

US map showing child poverty rates by state for 2009 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

States have also experienced substantial differences in how their poverty rates have changed since the beginning of the recession. Nationally, the child poverty rate rose 11 percent, from 18 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2009. During that period, five states have seen increases of more than 20 percent ,and 24 other states have seen increases between 10 percent and 20 percent. At the same time, five states have seen decreases in child poverty.

Changes in State Child Poverty Rates, 2007 - 2009

US map showing changes in state child poverty rates from 2007 to 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1: Changes in State Child Poverty Rates, 2007-2009 

 

 

 Child Poverty Rate 2007

 

 Child Poverty Rate 2009

 

 Percent Change in Child Poverty Rate 2007 - 2009

 

 Percentage Point Difference in Child Poverty Rate 2007-2009

United States

18.0%

 

20.0%

 

11.1%

 

2.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama

24.3%

 

24.7%

 

1.6%

 

0.4%

Alaska

11.5%

 

12.8%

 

11.3%

 

1.3%

Arizona

20.2%

 

23.4%

 

15.8%

 

3.2%

Arkansas

25.8%

 

27.2%

 

5.4%

 

1.4%

California

17.3%

 

19.9%

 

15.0%

 

2.6%

Colorado

16.3%

 

17.4%

 

6.7%

 

1.1%

Connecticut

11.1%

 

12.1%

 

9.0%

 

1.0%

Delaware

14.7%

 

16.5%

 

12.2%

 

1.8%

District of Columbia

22.7%

 

29.4%

 

29.5%

 

6.7%

Florida

17.1%

 

21.3%

 

24.6%

 

4.2%

Georgia

19.7%

 

22.3%

 

13.2%

 

2.6%

Hawaii

9.8%

 

13.8%

 

40.8%

 

4.0%

Idaho

15.9%

 

18.1%

 

13.8%

 

2.2%

Illinois

16.6%

 

18.9%

 

13.9%

 

2.3%

Indiana

17.3%

 

20.0%

 

15.6%

 

2.7%

Iowa

13.6%

 

15.7%

 

15.4%

 

2.1%

Kansas

14.6%

 

17.6%

 

20.5%

 

3.0%

Kentucky

23.9%

 

25.6%

 

7.1%

 

1.7%

Louisiana

26.8%

 

24.2%

 

-9.7%

 

-2.6%

Maine

15.4%

 

17.1%

 

11.0%

 

1.7%

Maryland

10.5%

 

11.6%

 

10.5%

 

1.1%

Massachusetts

12.9%

 

13.1%

 

1.6%

 

0.2%

Michigan

19.4%

 

22.5%

 

16.0%

 

3.1%

Minnesota

12.0%

 

14.1%

 

17.5%

 

2.1%

Mississippi

29.3%

 

31.0%

 

5.8%

 

1.7%

Missouri

17.7%

 

20.7%

 

16.9%

 

3.0%

Montana

18.3%

 

21.4%

 

16.9%

 

3.1%

Nebraska

14.9%

 

15.2%

 

2.0%

 

0.3%

Nevada

15.3%

 

17.6%

 

15.0%

 

2.3%

New Hampshire

8.8%

 

10.8%

 

22.7%

 

2.0%

New Jersey

11.6%

 

13.5%

 

16.4%

 

1.9%

New Mexico

25.5%

 

25.3%

 

-0.8%

 

-0.2%

New York

19.4%

 

20.0%

 

3.1%

 

0.6%

North Carolina

19.5%

 

22.5%

 

15.4%

 

3.0%

North Dakota

13.4%

 

13.0%

 

-3.0%

 

-0.4%

Ohio

18.5%

 

21.9%

 

18.4%

 

3.4%

Oklahoma

22.5%

 

22.2%

 

-1.3%

 

-0.3%

Oregon

16.9%

 

19.2%

 

13.6%

 

2.3%

Pennsylvania

16.3%

 

17.1%

 

4.9%

 

0.8%

Rhode Island

17.5%

 

16.9%

 

-3.4%

 

-0.6%

South Carolina

20.9%

 

24.4%

 

16.7%

 

3.5%

South Dakota

16.8%

 

18.5%

 

10.1%

 

1.7%

Tennessee

23.0%

 

23.9%

 

3.9%

 

0.9%

Texas

23.2%

 

24.4%

 

5.2%

 

1.2%

Utah

11.0%

 

12.2%

 

10.9%

 

1.2%

Vermont

12.4%

 

13.3%

 

7.3%

 

0.9%

Virginia

13.0%

 

13.9%

 

6.9%

 

0.9%

Washington

15.0%

 

16.2%

 

8.0%

 

1.2%

West Virginia

22.8%

 

23.6%

 

3.5%

 

0.8%

Wisconsin

14.4%

 

16.7%

 

16.0%

 

2.3%

Wyoming

11.6%

 

12.6%

 

8.6%

 

1.0%

 *NCSL is using the American Community Survey data because it allows more precise estimates of state-level child poverty rates. The national child poverty rate estimated from the Current Population Survey (also released by the U.S. Census Bureau in September 2010) was 20.7 percent (15.5 million children).

 


Key Resources

U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Report: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009 (P60-238)

U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 American Community Survey, http://www.census.gov/acs/www/  

National Center for Children in Poverty: www.nccp.org
 

For more information on child poverty, please contact cyf-info@ncsl.org.