Sep 14, 2022 - Economy

America's successful war on poverty

Number of children in poverty
Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

America's child poverty rate plunged in 2021, hitting a record low and accelerating a decadelong decline. That's the main message from Census Bureau data released Tuesday.

Why it matters: Millions of children aren't growing up in poverty today, thanks in very large part to government poverty-reduction programs.

  • The most recent decline can be linked directly to the increase in the child tax credit that was implemented in July 2021 but then expired at the end of that year — which means that next year's number is likely to see a rare increase.

Between the lines: A reduction in child poverty goes hand in hand with a reduction in the number of poor parents — specifically mothers.

  • By the numbers: The number of women heads of households in poverty declined to 4.95 million in 2021 from 7.8 million in 2020, per the census supplemental poverty measure, on top of the 3.4 million children who were taken out of poverty.

What they're saying: The report is a "kids story but it's also a women's story," said Kate Gallagher Robbins, a senior fellow at the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The big picture: Government spending on low-income children has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years, through programs like Medicaid, refundable tax credits, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

Go deeper: The NYT's Jason DeParle has a deep dive into the various forces bringing poverty down in America even before the trend was accelerated by pandemic-related aid.

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