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More than one-third of U.S. children live in low-income households, according to fact sheets published in early April by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP).

NCCP analysis of United States Census Bureau data for 2019 – released at Census.gov in the fall of 2020 – found that 38% (27.1 million) of all U.S. children under 18 live in low-income households, with 40% (13.6 million) of children under 9 living in these households.

Of the 38% of children under 18 in low-income households, 17% live in households with annual income below the U.S. poverty thresholds while 18% of children under 9 live in such economic circumstances.

For 2019, the poverty thresholds were:

  • $25,926 for a family of four with two children
  • $20,578 for a family of three with one child
  • $17,622 for a family of two with one child

“Research suggests that, on average, families need an income equal to about two times the federal poverty threshold to meet their most basic needs,” the report said. “Families with incomes below this level are referred to as low income:

  • $51,852 for a family of four with two children
  • $41,156 for a family of three with one child
  • $35,244 for a family of two with one child”

While child poverty remains high, the levels have declined over the last decade.

Since 2010, the number of children under 18 living in low-income households has fallen from 33.2 million to 27.1 million. Looking only at children under 9, the totals declined from 17.4 million to 13.6 million during this time period.

Similar declines were seen in the number of children under 18 living in households that are poor or in deep poverty, dropping from 16.8 million to 11.9 million and from 8.1 million to 5.2 million, respectively.

For children under 9, those living in poor households declined from 9.1 million to 6.1 million while those in deep poverty dropped from 4.5 million to 2.7 million.

Deep poverty is defined as annual household income of 50% or less of the poverty thresholds, while poor is defined as household income of 50% to 99% of these thresholds.

Native American (15%), Black (14%) and Latino (10%) children under 18 are all significantly more likely to live in deep poverty than white (4%) children.

The same trend was seen for children under 18 in poor households: Native American (31%), Black (30%), Latino (23%) and white (10%).

The pattern held for children under 9, with 18% of Native American, 16% of Black, 10% of Latino and 5% of white children in deep poverty, and 35% of Native American, 33% of Black, 24% of Latino and 11% of white children in poor households.

The fact sheet on children under 9 is available here. The fact sheet on children under 18 is available here.

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