State-level Data for Understanding Child Poverty

Data VisualizationPoverty & Economic Well-beingSep 11 2022

Why did child poverty fall in your state?

Child poverty fell an unprecedented 59 percent over the past quarter century in the United States. Use this child poverty data tool to explore how poverty declined among children in your state from 1980 to today, alongside changes in economic and demographic conditions. The final graph shows the social safety net’s role in reducing child poverty. To learn more, see our report, Lessons From a Historic Decline in Child Poverty, which explains that this decline is associated with a strong economy and growth in the federal social safety net.

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  • Data for our state-level estimates of child poverty rates are drawn from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS) (accessed through IPUMS)[1] and from historical Supplemental Poverty Measure data from the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy, anchored to 2012 thresholds.
  • Both datasets are representative at the national level; however, the Census Bureau recommends the use of three-year averages for additional statistical reliability when calculating state poverty estimates. Thus, all estimates in this data interactive are an average of current, previous, and subsequent years. The first and last years in the time series are two-year averages of the current and previous year for the last year in the series, and the current and subsequent year for the first year in the series.
  • The Current Population Survey is not representative at the state level before 1984. Interpret estimates from 1980-1983 with caution.
  • The social safety net is made up of many disparate programs. Anti-poverty programs captured here include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Social Security; housing assistance; unemployment insurance; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC); the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) subsidies. The full tax system is also captured here, including federal and state taxes owed, federal tax credits (including refundable tax credits), payroll taxes (FICA), and stimulus payments in 2008, 2009, and 2020. Except for state taxes, this analysis focuses on the role of federal anti-poverty programs and does not consider the role of state or local programs or community supports (e.g., a local food bank). Federal programs that are administered by states, such as TANF, are included. The size of the role of the social safety net in reducing child poverty rates will tend to be larger when child poverty rates are higher, and smaller when child poverty rates are lower.
  • Recession data are from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • For more information on how these indicators were created, please see our methodology.


[1] Sarah Flood, Miriam King, Renae Rodgers, Steven Ruggles, J. Robert Warren and Michael Westberry. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 9.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, 2021.