Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health


NEW YORK CITY – More than half of all the children in Detroit and Cleveland live in poverty. Detroit, with 57.3 percent of its youngest citizens living in poverty, leads the nation, followed by Cleveland, with 53.9 percent, according to researchers at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). NCCP is a research center based at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Other cities in the top 10 for child poverty are Buffalo; Cincinnati; Newark, N.J.; Miami; Toledo; Milwaukee; New Orleans; and Memphis. The numbers are the latest data available from the U.S. Census’ 2011 American Community Survey for 2011.

“These numbers are a national disgrace,” says Curtis Skinner, PhD, director of family economic security at NCCP. “They show the continuing toll of persistently high joblessness on families and children in a surprisingly diverse group of cities, from the rust belt to the sun belt. Four years after the official end of the Great Recession, child poverty is pandemic in many of the nation’s best-known and most important cities.”

The 25 U.S. cities with the highest percentage of children in poverty:

1  Detroit 57.3 %
2  Cleveland 53.9 %
3  Buffalo, N.Y. 46.8 %
4  Cincinnati 45.3 %
5  Newark, N.J. 44.0 %
6  Miami 43.8 %
7  Toledo 43.7 %
8  Milwaukee 43.0 %
9  New Orleans 42.2 %
10  Memphis 42.1 %
11  Philadelphia 39.3 %
12  Fresno, Caif. 39.1 %
13  Dallas 38.9 %
14  Atlanta 38.3 %
15  St. Louis 38.2 %
16  Houston 37.6 %
17  Baltimore 37.4 %
18  Stockton, Calif. 37.4 %
19  Tucson 36.9 %
20  Chicago 36.1 %
21  St. Paul 35.2 %
22  Sacramento 34.8 %
23  Pittsburgh 34.8 %
24  Columbus, Ohio 33.4 %
25  Los Angeles 32.8 %

The Census data also reveal that, at 23 percent nationwide, the poverty rate is seven percentage points higher than it was in 2000. Only three years have recorded higher child poverty rates dating back to 1965. “The shockingly high child poverty rates underscore the critical importance of defending and strengthening our frayed social safety net,” says Dr. Skinner.

“Nutrition programs such as food stamps, school lunches, and the WIC [Women, Infants, and Children] program for mothers and young children have proven highly effective in helping low-income families make ends meet. Congress must pass a Farm Bill now that restores and increases funding to these programs.”

The President’s Promise Zones initiative – which marshals housing, education, economic development, and other resources to high-poverty neighborhoods – should also be a budget priority, urges Dr. Skinner. “Given what we know about the damaging effects of poverty on children’s school achievement and health, a failure to reverse the rising child poverty trend of recent years will reduce the life opportunities of growing numbers of young Americans. That would be a tragedy for our children and an irresponsible disinvestment in the future of our nation.”

- 30 -

NOTE TO REPORTERS: For a poverty ranking of the 73 U.S. cities with populations more than 250,000, please email:

The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) is the nation’s leading public policy center dedicated to promoting the economic security, health and well-being of America’s low-income families and children. Part of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, NCCP is financially self-reliant with funding from public and private sources.