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Young child poverty in the United States: Analyzing trends in poverty and the role of anti-poverty programs using the Supplemental Poverty Measure

Jessica Pac, Jaehyun Nam, Jane Waldfogel and Chris Wimer

Children and Youth Services Review, 2017, vol. 74, issue C, 35-49

Abstract: Between 1968 and 2013, the poverty rate of young children age 0 to 5years fell by nearly one third, in large part because of the role played by anti-poverty programs. However, young children in the U.S. still face a much higher rate of poverty than do older children in the U.S. They also continue to have a much higher poverty rate than do young children in other developed countries around the world. In this paper, we provide a detailed analysis of trends in poverty and the role of anti-poverty programs in addressing poverty among young children, using an improved measure of poverty, the Supplemental Poverty Measure. We examine changes over time and the current status, both for young children overall and for key subgroups (by child age, and by child race/ethnicity). Our findings can be summarized in three key points. First, poverty among all young children age 0–5years has fallen since the beginning of our time series; but absent the safety net, today's poverty rate among young children would be identical to or higher than it was in 1968. Second, the safety net plays an increasing role in reducing the poverty of young children, especially among Black non-Hispanic children, whose poverty rate would otherwise be 20.8 percentage points higher in 2013. Third, the composition of support has changed from virtually all cash transfers in 1968, to about one third each of cash, credit and in-kind transfers today.

Date: 2017
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