Children in poverty, 2008–2012 and 2016–2020 in the United States

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Why This Indicator Matters

Growing up poor has wide-ranging and long-lasting repercussions.

Poverty elevates a child’s risk of experiencing behavioral, social and emotional and health challenges. Child poverty also reduces skill-building opportunities and academic outcomes, undercutting a young student’s capacity to learn, graduate high school and more.

What is the rate of child poverty in the U.S.?

Currently, 17% of all children in the United States — nearly 12 million kids total — are living in poverty. A family of four with annual earnings below $26,246. is considered poor. In the last decade, this rate the percentage of U.S. children in poverty has risen from 18% in 2007 and 2008, peaked at 23% in 2011 and 2012, and fell to 17% 2019.

This indicator is included in the KIDS COUNT Index. Read the KIDS COUNT Data Book to learn more about child poverty levels.

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Data Provided By

Definitions: Child poverty refers to the share of children under age 18 who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty definition consists of a series of thresholds based on family size and composition. In calendar year 2020, a family of two adults and two children fell in the “poverty” category if their annual income fell below $26,246. Poverty status is not determined for people in military barracks, institutional quarters, or for unrelated individuals under age 15 (such as foster children). The data are based on income received in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Data Source: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 5-year ACS, 2008-2012 and 2016-2020.
These data were derived from ACS table B17001.

Footnotes: Updated July 2022.
S: Estimates suppressed when the confidence interval around the percentage is greater than or equal to 10 percentage points.
N.A.: Data not available.
A 90 percent confidence interval for each estimate can be found at Children in poverty, 2008–2012 and 2016–2020.