Trends in children in working poor families
From 1995 to 1999, the percentage of poor children living in households with at least one worker rose from 67 to 78 percent, before falling to 70 percent in 2003. Workers include any person older than age 15 who worked during the preceding calendar year, for pay or profit, or without pay on a family-operated farm or business, at any time during the year, on a part-time or full-time basis. From 2003 to 2009, this percentage remained steady (around 70 percent), then fell to 67 percent in 2010. Since then, the rate has increased, to 70 percent in 2016; however, comparisons are complicated by a change in the survey questions used to determine income.
The percentage of poor children living with at least one full-time, year-round worker peaked in 2000, at 37 percent, an increase from 27 percent in 1997. After falling to 31 percent in 2003, the rate increased to 34 percent in 2004 and remained steady until 2007. From 2007 to 2010, the rate of poor children living with a full-time, year-round worker fell from 34 to 27 percent, but this rate has since increased to 31 percent in 2016. Contemporaneously, child poverty fell from 21 to 16 percent from 1995 to 2000, then increased to 22 percent in 2010, before decreasing again to 18 percent in 2016.
Similar trends were evident for the subgroup of children living in families with a single female householder, although this percentage saw greater fluctuations (increases in the 1990s and decreases in the early 2000s), suggesting that this group may be more sensitive to overall economic conditions (Appendix 1).
Among all children, the percentage living in poor families with at least one worker decreased from 1995 to 2001, from 14 to 12 percent. After remaining steady through 2006, the rate increased to 15 percent in 2011—the highest level ever recorded since 1995, when these data were first available. Rates have since fallen slightly, reaching 12 percent in 2016. The percentage of children who are low-income (living in households with income less than twice the federal poverty level) and have at least one full-time, year-round worker in their families remained steady from 2002 to 2016, at around 22 percent. The percentage of children in full-time, year-round working poor families has fluctuated between 5 and 6 percent, and was at 6 percent in 2013. As measured by the revised survey item, the proportion of children in full-time, year-round working poor families was 5 percent in 2016, a decline from 7 percent in 2014. The percentage in full-time, year-round, low-income working families has fluctuated between 22 and 23 percent, and was at 23 percent in 2013. Using data from the revised survey, the proportion of children who were in full-time, year-round, low-income working families was 22 percent in 2016, a small decrease from 24 percent in 2014 (Appendix 2).