Sep 20, 2022 - World

Latino child poverty drastically fell but danger lurks, experts say

Estimated share of children in poverty, by race/ethnicity
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Note: Asian alone, Black alone and white alone refer to those who didn't report any other race category or Hispanic origin; Chart: Axios Visuals

Experts are encouraged by the latest research showing a drastic drop in child poverty — which affects Latinos at much higher rates non-Hispanic white kids — but say key programs must be extended.

The big picture: Overall childhood poverty has been falling for decades and hit a record low in 2021, largely due to pandemic safety net programs like the extended child tax credit. But the end of that and of stimulus checks and free school meals threaten recent gains, experts say.

By the numbers: The U.S. Census' most recent data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure, released last week, shows the poverty rate for Hispanic children fell the most out of all ethnic or racial categories, from 29.1% in 2009 to 8.4% in 2021.

  • Hispanic children are nearly three times more likely to be living in poverty than non-Hispanic white kids, according to a recent study by the research organization Child Trends.
  • That study examined rates from 1993 to 2019 — purposely excluding the pandemic because the researchers consider it an anomalous year — and found a 59% drop in overall childhood poverty.
  • For Hispanic children, poverty decreased from 52% in 1993 to 19% in 2019, that study found.

Details: The earned income tax credit (a tax break for lower to moderate income families), an overall long term healthy economy, state minimum wages and women's labor force participation also contributed to gains on childhood poverty, says Lina Guzman, the director of the Child Trends Hispanic Institute.

  • "We actually we know what works and we know how to continue to build on those on the programs that work," Guzman says.

Yes, but: Policymakers need to continue safety net programs that have pulled millions of children out of poverty, says Brayan Rodriguez, a senior policy analyst with UnidosUS, a progressive civil rights group.

  • That includes restoring the pandemic's expanded child tax credits, Rodriguez said.
  • Rodriguez says UnidosUS is pushing Congress to reinstate the enhanced credits. It is garnering some Republican support, but critics say it deepens the U.S. deficit.

Between the lines: Immigration status (immigrants can't access many government benefits) and a lack of access to high-wage jobs and childcare contribute to Latinos' higher childhood poverty rates.

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Editor's note: The chart in this story has been updated to include data on American Indian and Alaska Native children.

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