July 14, 2015

Black child poverty rate holds steady, even as other groups see declines

Child Poverty Rate Stable Among Blacks, Drops Among Other Groups

Year Asian White Hispanic Black
1976 9.8% 30.2% 40.6%
1977 9.9% 28.3% 41.8%
1978 9.6% 27.6% 41.5%
1979 10.1% 28.0% 41.2%
1980 11.8% 33.2% 42.3%
1981 12.9% 35.9% 45.2%
1982 14.4% 39.5% 47.6%
1983 14.8% 38.1% 46.7%
1984 13.7% 39.2% 46.6%
1985 12.8% 40.3% 43.6%
1986 13.0% 37.7% 43.1%
1987 23.5% 11.8% 39.3% 45.1%
1988 24.1% 11.0% 37.6% 43.5%
1989 19.8% 11.5% 36.2% 43.7%
1990 17.6% 12.3% 38.4% 44.8%
1991 17.5% 13.1% 40.4% 45.9%
1992 16.4% 13.2% 40.0% 46.6%
1993 18.2% 13.6% 40.9% 46.1%
1994 18.3% 12.5% 41.5% 43.8%
1995 19.5% 11.2% 40.0% 41.9%
1996 19.5% 11.1% 40.3% 39.9%
1997 20.3% 11.4% 36.8% 37.2%
1998 18.0% 10.6% 34.4% 36.7%
1999 11.9% 9.4% 30.3% 33.2%
2000 12.7% 9.1% 28.4% 31.2%
2001 11.5% 9.5% 28.0% 30.2%
2002 11.7% 9.4% 28.6% 32.3%
2003 12.5% 9.8% 29.7% 34.1%
2004 9.9% 10.5% 28.9% 33.7%
2005 11.1% 10.0% 28.3% 34.5%
2006 12.2% 10.0% 26.9% 33.4%
2007 12.5% 10.1% 28.6% 34.5%
2008 14.6% 10.6% 30.6% 34.7%
2009 14.0% 11.9% 33.1% 35.7%
2010 14.4% 12.3% 34.9% 39.0%
2011 13.5% 12.5% 34.1% 38.8%
2012 13.8% 12.3% 33.8% 37.9%
2013 10.1% 10.7% 30.4% 38.3%

Pew Research Center

The share of American children living in poverty has declined slightly since 2010 as the nation’s economy has improved. But the poverty rate has changed little for black children, the group most likely to be living in poverty, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

Overall, 20% of children in the U.S., or 14.7 million, lived in poverty in 2013 – down from 22%, or 16.3 million, in 2010. (Poverty in 2013 was defined as living in a household with an annual income below $23,624 for a family of four with two related children.) During this period, the poverty rate declined for Hispanic, white and Asian children. Among black children, however, the rate held steady at about 38%. Black children were almost four times as likely as white or Asian children to be living in poverty in 2013, and significantly more likely than Hispanic children.

Number of Black Children in Poverty May Have Eclipsed Whites for First Time on Record

Year Asian White Black Hispanic
1976 4.8 3.8 1.4
1977 4.7 3.9 1.4
1978 4.5 3.8 1.4
1979 4.7 3.8 1.5
1980 5.5 4.0 1.7
1981 5.9 4.2 1.9
1982 6.6 4.5 2.2
1983 6.6 4.4 2.3
1984 6.2 4.4 2.4
1985 5.7 4.2 2.6
1986 5.8 4.1 2.5
1987 0.5 5.2 4.4 2.7
1988 0.5 4.9 4.3 2.6
1989 0.4 5.1 4.4 2.6
1990 0.4 5.5 4.6 2.9
1991 0.4 5.9 4.8 3.1
1992 0.4 6.0 5.1 3.6
1993 0.4 6.3 5.1 3.9
1994 0.3 5.8 4.9 4.1
1995 0.6 5.1 4.8 4.1
1996 0.6 5.1 4.5 4.2
1997 0.6 5.2 4.2 4.0
1998 0.6 4.8 4.2 3.8
1999 0.4 4.2 3.8 3.7
2000 0.4 4.0 3.6 3.5
2001 0.4 4.2 3.5 3.6
2002 0.3 4.1 3.6 3.8
2003 0.3 4.2 3.9 4.1
2004 0.3 4.5 3.8 4.1
2005 0.3 4.3 3.8 4.1
2006 0.4 4.2 3.8 4.1
2007 0.4 4.3 3.9 4.5
2008 0.4 4.4 3.9 5.0
2009 0.5 4.9 4.0 5.6
2010 0.5 4.9 4.4 6.1
2011 0.5 4.9 4.3 6.0
2012 0.5 4.8 4.2 6.0
2013 0.4 4.1 4.2 5.4

Pew Research Center

In fact, the number of impoverished white children (4.1 million) may have dipped below the number of impoverished black children (4.2 million) for the first time since the U.S. Census began collecting this data in 1974, though this difference was not statistically significant. This is despite the fact that there are more than three times as many white children as black children living in the U.S. today.

Child Poverty Rates, by Race and EthnicityIn terms of total numbers, there were still more Hispanic children living in poverty in 2013 (5.4 million) than any other group, as has been the case since at least 2008. This is because the Hispanic population is larger (and younger) than any other minority racial or ethnic group, and the Hispanic child poverty rate is relatively high, at about 30%.

Children make up a larger share of America’s impoverished than of the population as a whole – those younger than 18 make up about a quarter of the total population, but make up about a third of all Americans in poverty.

Black and Hispanic children in particular are overrepresented: Children make up 27% of the black population, but 38% of blacks in poverty. And children account for 33% of all Hispanics, but 42% of impoverished Hispanics. By contrast, children make up roughly equal shares of the white and Asian populations and of whites and Asians living in poverty.

Topics: Poverty, Race and Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Class, Teens and Youth

  1. Photo of Eileen Patten

    is a research analyst focusing on Hispanic, social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.

21 Comments

  1. Jasper1 year ago

    I believe your graphs would show a different picture if Asians were disaggregated by the various groups ( Hmungs, Thai, Samoan, Fujiian, Laotians, etc.) When all Asians are lumped together a skewed picture of the “model minority” emerges and everything looks just fine. Many of these groups when teased out of the census bureau data demonstrate high poverty, high crime and mental illness issues including PTSD. But not only is no one looking at the problem, but the simple fact that these groups need first language help as well as social services to help their integration into American society is often ignored. Of course we need to address all those who continue in poverty, but I suggest that the problem is not as simple as black and white.

  2. rexracer nj1 year ago

    Very interesting to see the dramatic decline in black & Hispanic child poverty during the Bill Clinton administration. Wonder what his “secret recipe” for minority economic progress was? This explains some of the black and Hispanic enthusiasm for Clinton, and would be a good selling point for Hillary, I would think.

    1. No name1 year ago

      The tech boom provided a lot of jobs. By the end of his administration this was already waning. I agree that this would explain the enthusiasm.

  3. Roger Williams1 year ago

    This has got to be a systemic issue.

    There is no way 15 million children end up in poverty simply because of individual “bad” choices made by their parents or guardians.

    1. rick1 year ago

      when you have 70% of black babies born into homes with no father, what do you expect. this is the driver for all things bad. a father in the home not only provides stability, he brings home food, applies discipline, and provides a role model for the child, hopefully a good one. this is the problem, and its not prison. they were out of jail when they got the girl pregnant, its their bad choices that end them up in jail. Im a mentor to 3 different young black males, not one has been in trouble with the law. its all about the role models in their lives and the choices those role models help them make. When you blame all black problems on someone or something else, (rascism. slavery) you only cripple their chances to rise above their circumstances. We are all better off when we take responsibility for our actions and our outcomes. if you really love people you tell them the truth in love.

      1. Nathan12 months ago

        So you don’t see any systemic issue? Poverty correlates with low education. It’s a vicious cycle that has kept black Americans poor. Poverty breeds desperation. This breeds crime. It’s no coincidence that the ghettos in major cities that formed in the 30’s back when they were literally the only places that minorities were allowed to purchase land are still have the largest concentrations of black poverty. Ascribing the current poverty situation to “Bad decisions” made by black men is incredibly ignorant. When my parents were both 18 they legally wouldn’t have been allowed to marry. That type of systemic oppression doesn’t just naturally even out in a few generations.

        1. Kevin10 months ago

          Yup, low education contributes to poverty. There also exists affirmative action and quotas.

          1. woodman vic8 months ago

            See I dont thnk those help. We have had them for a while now and they dont seem to help. I belive there is probably a more efficient and effective way that at the same time does no dissadvatage people of other races.

          2. Shannie Jae5 months ago

            Affirmative action and quotas have actually benefited white women the most so please don’t take it there.

    2. Nadia Bee1 year ago

      Employment discrimination, low wages, poor transportation to good jobs, and low skills/education lead to poverty.

      1. ann1 year ago

        70% of jobs created and employing 16 to 65 year olds since 2008 have gone to immigrants. The remaining 30% went to those 65 and older, an alarming statistic in and of itself that shows the economic instability retirees are facing. The effect of immigration, particularly illegal immigration, has been most harmful to Blacks and teenagers. You won’t hear their supposed advocates say this in any public setting, though. It is power they are after and Blacks don’t come close to the political power that the “demographic destiny” immigrants (particularly Latinos) are expected to provide the Democratic party. Of course lower wages for the masses is quite beneficial to all the power elites, Democrats included.

  4. Christina1 year ago

    Bob Nelson fails to realize that all the determinants of poverty he’s listed are the result of centuries of institutional racism against Black Americans. For example, you can thank the absenteeism of Black fathers to disproportionate incarceration rates….Black first time offenders receive harsher sentences than first time White offenders for the same crime. See here huffingtonpost.com/antonio-moore…

    1. Alin341 year ago

      Before those men were incarcerated, do you think they were good family men, married to the mothers of their children, going to PTA meetings and holding a respectable job?

  5. bryan watson1 year ago

    Note how the black (and Hispanic) child poverty rates dropped so dramatically during the Bill Clinton presidency. What was Clinton’s recipe? Explains a lot of minority enthusiasm for the Clintons.

  6. Bob Nelson1 year ago

    correlate these finding with the major determinants of poverty : fatherlessness; fail;sure to graduate high school; having children before and outside marriage; failure to have a job and the answer to the question of WHY is addressed. Its not racism and poor choices!

    1. Christina D’Antoni1 year ago

      Bob Nelson fails to realize that all the determinants of poverty he’s listed are the result of centuries of institutional racism against Black Americans. For example, you can thank the absenteeism of Black fathers to disproportionate incarceration rates….Black first time offenders receive harsher sentences than first time White offenders for the same crime. See here huffingtonpost.com/antonio-moore…

      1. jskdn1 year ago

        The existence of racism doesn’t mean that choices people make aren’t consequential. In fact that may make them more so. People with greater social and family resources can make bad choices and be more insulated from the consequences. The worse thing you can do is convince people that what they do doesn’t matter, that their life fate is largely governed by forces that are immune to the choices they make. That sort of a belief system is poisonous.

        Accepting that choices matter doesn’t mean that real obstacles that people face need be denied or ignored. Both beliefs can exist side by side and addressing them can be symbiotic.

    2. Rofs1 year ago

      So you are implying that black people are lazier and just don’t want to get ahead? This disparity in wealth has been going on since the Great Depression.

    3. Ms State1 year ago

      They actually correlate with Geographic isolation and segregation. Leave the sociology to the sociologists.

  7. MidWestMike1 year ago

    The results of the trillions wasted on the “Great Society”.

    1. Nadia Bee1 year ago

      The great society programs reduces the poverty rate among Americans by 50% every year. It was a success.