Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Income Assistance Programs Helped Shield More Than 5 Million Children from Poverty in 2014, Says Newest Census Data
Latest national estimate of child poverty shows a staggering 1 in 5 children lives below the poverty line, largely unchanged from 2013.

NEW YORK, September 16, 2015 — United States child poverty rate remained frozen at one child in five in 2014, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.  In 2014, 21.1 percent of all American children—15.5 million children—lived in poverty, a rate not statistically different from the 21.5 percent rate recorded in 2013. The nation’s child poverty rate remains the highest among the world’s high-income countries, according to other studies.  

“It’s very disappointing to find that the reduction in child poverty we observed in 2013 has not been sustained,” said Renée Wilson-Simmons, director of the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.  “The new data show the critical need for economic stimulus to create living-wage jobs.”  

While poverty rates remained unchanged for children in all major racial and ethnic groups in 2014, the likelihood of being poor still varied widely by race and ethnicity in America.  The poverty rate for black children in 2014 was 37.1 percent, compared to 31.9 percent for Hispanics, 14.0 percent for Asians, and 12.3 percent for non-Hispanic white children.  

Other key points from the 2014 data:

  • Forty three percent of American children (31.5 million) live in families with incomes less than twice the poverty line.
  • More than 9 percent of children (6.8 million) live in deep poverty, with family incomes less than half the poverty line.  Eighteen percent of black children (2 million) and 12.9 percent of Hispanic children (2.3 million) live in deep poverty.
  • Children living in single-parent households are much more likely to be poor than children in households with two parents present.  About 46 percent of children in families with a female householder are poor, compared to about 11 percent of children in families with married parents.
  • For Americans of all ages, the 2014 poverty rate was 14.8 percent—or 46.7 million people—unchanged from 2013.  

For the first time, the Census Bureau released its annual supplemental poverty measure (SPM) on the same day as the official measure. The SPM takes into account the impact of income supports and assistance designed to help low-income families.

“Using the supplemental measure, refundable tax credits alone lifted more than 5 million children out of poverty in 2014,” said Curtis Skinner, NCCP’s director of family economic security. “The data announced today add a significant dimension to discussions on the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs and to having an accurate picture of child poverty in America.”