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Young Child Poverty in the States, Wide Variation and Significant Change

Bennett, Neil G.; Li, Jiali

The purpose of this research brief from the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) is to describe levels and trends of young child poverty in the states and to understand some of the important reasons behind the differences across the states. Key findings from the research brief include: Considerable variation exists among the states’ young child poverty rates (YCPRs). In particular, seven states and the District of Columbia have rates significantly higher than the national average and 15 states have rates that are significantly lower. Young child poverty rates for 1992–1996 ranged from 11 percent in Utah to 41 percent in Louisiana. Ten states have experienced significant changes in their YCPRs between 1979–1983* and 1992–1996. Specifically, eight states’ YCPRs increased, while the rates of two states decreased. Changes in state young child poverty rates ranged from a 53 percent increase in Oklahoma to a 39 percent fall in Vermont. Nationally, the young child poverty rate (YCPR) increased from 22.0 to 24.7 percent during the period covered by the study —an increase of 12 percent. The number of poor young children in the United States grew from an average of 4.4 million to an average of 5.9 million over the same period. California, New York, and Texas each experienced steep increases (24, 21, and 24 percent respectively) in their YCPRs between 1979–1983 and 1992–1996. These increases were significantly higher than the national increase of 12 percent. Indeed, more than half of the increase in the average number of poor young children in the United States over the period covered in this study can be attributed to these three states. Three demographic factors—changes in family structure, employment patterns, and educational attainment—accounted for a notable proportion of the changes in state young child poverty rates over the past two decades.

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National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University

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National Center for Children in Poverty
Published Here
February 26, 2019
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