Indicator List for Poverty


Poverty poses both immediate and long-term threats to children’s development. Child Trends monitors the prevalence of child poverty over time, and its impact on child outcomes. In all of our research areas, from early childhood to youth development, we examine differences in child well-being by family income. We also evaluate the effects of programs and policies aimed at children and families in poverty.

Our DataBank provides annual updates on the number and percent of children living under key poverty thresholds.

Indicator List for Poverty


Child Support Receipt

Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who received full payment of all support owed them in the previous year increased from 37 percent in 1994 to 43 percent in 2011.


Children in Poverty

In 2010, more than one in five children (22 percent) lived in families with incomes below the poverty line, the highest level since 1993; by 2013, this proportion had fallen to 20 percent. Black and Hispanic children, children living in single-mother families, and children under five are more likely to be poor.


Food Insecurity

In 2013, more than one in five U.S. children (21 percent) lived in households that were food-insecure at some point during the year, and 1.0 percent experienced the most severe level of need, where food intake is reduced and regular eating patterns are disrupted.


Head Start

Enrollment in Head Start decreased between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 program years, from 979,000 to 916,000 children, but Head Start enrollees increased as a proportion of all young children in poverty.


Health Care Coverage

The proportion of children with health insurance coverage for any part of the year increased modestly from 89 percent in 2000 to 93 percent in 2013. However, during this period, the share of children with private insurance decreased from 71 to 60 percent, while the proportion of children covered under Medicaid increased from 21 to 38 percent.


Homeless Children and Youth

While estimating the homeless population is difficult, about 1.3 million students in the U.S. were homeless at the start of the 2012-2013 school year. Children not enrolled in school, although their numbers are less easily measured, push the total number of homeless children and youth significantly higher.


Long-Term Welfare Dependence

Between 1999 and 2008, nearly three-quarters of children whose families had ever received welfare (TANF) received those benefits for one or two of those years, and less than ten percent received them for six or more of those years.

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