Who Are America’s Poor Children?

Who Are America’s Poor Children? The Official Story
By: Vanessa R. Wight, Michelle Chau, and Yumiko Aratani
Source: National Center for Children in Poverty

More than 13 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,050 a year for a family of four. The number of children living in poverty increased by 21 percent between 2000 and 2008. There are 2.5 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000.

Not only are these numbers troubling, the official poverty measure tells only part of the story. Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet. Children living in families with incomes below this level – for 2009, $44,100 for a family of four – are referred to as low income. Forty-one percent of the nation’s children – more than 29 million in 2008 – live in low-income families.

Nonetheless, eligibility for many public benefits is based on the official poverty measure. This fact sheet – the first in a series focusing on economic and material hardship – details some of the characteristics of American children who are considered poor by the official standard.

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