Children in Poverty
U.S. Value: 16.8%
Healthiest State: New Hampshire: 7.1%
Least-healthy State: Mississippi: 28.1%
Definition: Percentage of children younger than 18 years who live in households below the poverty threshold
Data Source & Year(s): U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2019
Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, United Health Foundation, AmericasHealthRankings.org, accessed 2022.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Families with income below the federal poverty level may struggle to consistently meet the basic needs of their children. Exposure to chronic stress, including unreliable access to food, health care and stable housing, may impair the development of children in poverty and can affect their health at any stage:
- Birth: Mothers living in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to give birth prematurely and have low birthweight babies.
- Childhood: Obesity, asthma and emergency room visits are more common among children living in poverty compared with those not living in poverty.
- Adolescence: Students experiencing poverty are significantly less likely to graduate high school.
Living in poverty affects a child’s ability to succeed in school and may impact potential future earnings. One estimate of the cost of U.S. childhood poverty totaled $1.03 trillion annually, factoring in lost potential earnings and costs of poor health.
WHO IS AFFECTED?
The prevalence of poverty in children is higher among:
- Non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children, who both have a prevalence more than two times higher than non-Hispanic white and Asian children.
- Children of single mothers compared with children who live in two-parent households or in single-father households.
Children ages 0-5 compared with children ages 12-17.