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G4O7. Increase high school graduation rates

Number of children living in poverty rate

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Story Behind the Curve

Children in Poverty

Definition: Number 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

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?, accessed 2022.

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.


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.

What Works

Source:  Last accessed 02/15/2023


Recent innovations to mitigate the adverse effects of childhood poverty utilize the two-generation approach, which promotes family resilience by combining support and education programs for parents with early childhood intervention programs into a stronger, whole family experience.

Many government programs and community interventions exist to help reduce the number of children in poverty and support low-income families:

  • The earned income tax credit (EITC), the largest U.S. poverty-alleviation program, provides a tax credit to employed families and individuals living in poverty. Research shows the benefits of the program include decreased prevalence of low birthweight and preterm birth and increases in breastfeeding. One study calculated that an annual $3,000 from the EITC for a family with a child under 5 will result in an average 19% increase in future earnings for the child.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, provides nutrition benefits to families in need.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides food and nutritional support specifically for pregnant and postpartum women and children. The WIC program has been associated with a lower prevalence of low birthweight, with greater gains among women with low education.
  • The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides free or low-cost meals to students at school.
  • Child First is a comprehensive program that provides financial, housing and food assistance and early childhood interventions for low-income families. 
  • Medicaid provides health care to low-income adults, pregnant women and children.
  • Universal basic income programs can provide those living in poverty with regular cash transfers to meet basic needs regardless of employment status, age or other restrictive conditions. 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine proposed four policy packages that would reduce child poverty by 24%-52% while using existing policy options to maximize effectiveness.


While not specific to children, reducing the proportion of those living in poverty is a Healthy People 2030 economic stability objective.


Corrective Action

Source:  Last accessed 02/15/2023

For the duration of the Federal Public Health Emergency, the following SNAP policy change is in effect:

Are College Students Eligible for SNAP?
Students attending an institution of higher education, like a college, university, trade school, or technical school more than half-time are eligible for SNAP IF they meet an exemption AND meet all other SNAP eligibility requirements. You can ask your school what qualifies as “half-time.”

What Are Student Exemptions?
COVID-19 Temporary Update
As of January 16, 2021 and through the duration of the Federal PHE, these 2 additional exemptions have been added in determination of student status:

  1. Eligible to participate in state or federally financed work study during the regular school year. Your school determines if you are eligible for work study
  2. Have an Expected Family Contribution of 0 in the current academic year (based on the FASFA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

The normal exemptions for students are listed in section 3210.15.35.05 of the policy manual available at this link: 


Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

Through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), WIC participants are eligible for a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers, and can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail-in application. You can learn more about the benefit, including eligibility and enrollment information, by visiting, or by calling 877-384-2575. 

Source:   Last accessed 02/15/2023


Last accessed 11 July 2022; 02/15/2023


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