Trends in children in working poor families
Between 1995 and 1999, the percentage of poor children living in households with at least one worker rose from 67 to 78 percent, then fell to 70 percent in 2003. Workers include any person older than 15 who worked during the preceding calendar year, either 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. Between 2003 and 2007 the rate remained steady, before it fell to 67 percent in 2010. Since then, the rate has increased, and was at 69 percent in 2014, although comparisons are complicated by a change in the survey questions used to determine income. (Figure 1)
The percentage of poor children 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 remained steady until 2007. Between 2007 and 2010, the rate of poor children with a full-time, year-round worker fell from 34 to 27 percent, but this rate has since increased to 33 percent in 2014. (Figure 1) Contemporaneously, child poverty fell from 20 to 16 percent between 1995 and 2000, rose to 17 percent in 2005, and increased steadily between 2007 and 2011, from 18 to 22 percent, decreasing after that.
Similar trends were evident for the subgroup of children living in families with a single female householder, though fluctuations in this percentage (increases in the 1990s and decreases in the early 2000s) were greater, suggesting this group may be more sensitive to overall economic conditions. (Appendix 1)
Among all children, the percent living in poor families with at least one worker decreased between 1995 and 2002, from 14 to 12 percent. After remaining steady through 2006, this rate increased to 15 percent in 2011—the highest level ever recorded since 1995, when these data are first available. Rates have since fallen slightly. The percentage of children who are poor or low-income and have at least one full-time, year-round worker in their families remained steady over this time period. The percentage of children in full-time, year-round working poor families has fluctuated between five and six percent, and was at six percent in 2013. Under the new questionnaire, the proportion of children who were in full-time, year-round working poor families was seven 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 working low-income families was 24 percent in 2014. (Appendix 2)