On Sunday, September 11th, the New York Times, in conjunction with Child Trends, published a new analysis which reports that childhood poverty has fallen 59% since 1993. “With little public notice and accelerating speed, America’s children have become much less poor” over the last 25 years, the article states.
The analysis includes data through 2019, excluding the pandemic relief programs in 2020 and 2021, which have led to additional drops in child poverty. The researchers found that child poverty has fallen in every state, and it has fallen by about the same amount among children who are white, Black, Hispanic and Asian, living with one parent or two, and in native or immigrant households, although stark disparities have not been adequately addressed. Deep poverty has fallen nearly as much.
The research indicates that there were multiple factors that contributed to the reduction of child poverty, including lower unemployment, increased labor force participation among single mothers and the growth of state-level minimum wages. However, a dominant factor was the expansion of government aid and a better safety net for families with very low incomes.
“In 1993, safety net programs cut child poverty by 9 percent from what it would have been absent the aid. By 2019, those programs had cut child poverty by 44 percent, and the number of children they removed from poverty more than tripled to 6.5 million,” the analysis notes.
Advocates have been quick to highlight the role of government spending in improving the circumstances of children, using the opportunity to support the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which expired last year.
Additionally, even with the researchers’ use of the Supplemental Poverty Measure, rather than the Official Poverty Measure, it’s important to note that children and families that are technically above the poverty line can still experience significant need and hardship, especially in the face of rising inflation and cost of living around the country. This analysis presents very good news, but there is more work to be done.