Sep 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Stunning stat: Child poverty hit record low in 2021

Illustration of a paper cut family, with the child in the middle made of a dollar bill.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Child poverty in America has dropped by more than 80% since 1993.

  • Zoom in: The child poverty rate was 27.9% in 1993, but fell to a record low of 5.2% in 2021, according to new census data.

Why it matters: Growing up poor affects every facet of adult life, from health to wealth.

  • "Fewer children growing up in poverty is good for the future," says Renee Ryberg, a co-author of a new report from Child Trends that digs into the data. "It's as simple as that."
  • Not only are there immediate improvements to the well-being of kids and families, there are also long-term benefits for society, like lower rates of crime, lower health care costs and more tax revenue.

🧠 Reality check: Pandemic-era expanded government benefits, from stimulus checks to an expanded child tax credit, were major drivers in reducing child poverty in 2020 and 2021.

  • Academics and advocates have raised concerns that some of those additional gains may be erased now that the expanded child tax credit has expired.

Still, many of the driving factors behind the drop in child poverty are longer term.

  • They include lower unemployment, state-level minimum wage increases, a rise in single mothers' participation in the workforce, and expansions of the safety net, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The reduction in child poverty has affected all poor kids in the U.S., per the Child Trends report.

  • The child poverty rate has decreased in every state.
  • And it's fallen by about the same amount for Black kids, white kids, Hispanic kids, Asian kids, immigrants, and kids in one- or two-parent households.
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