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The New Poor
Regional Trends in Child Poverty Since 2000

Authors: Heather Koball and Ayana Douglas-Hall
Publication Date: August 2006

This is an excerpt from the full report.

In 2004, approximately 18 percent of all children in the United States lived in poverty. Over the last five years, child poverty has risen substantially, increasing by 12 percent. After hitting a low of 12.1 million children in 2000, more than 1.4 million children have been added to the poverty rolls, becoming members of this country’s “new poor.” Children who grow up in poverty experience significant hardships that can have lasting effects well into adulthood.

Families typically require an income equal to twice the federal poverty level to meet their basic needs. Although the federal poverty level is widely acknowledged to be a flawed measure of families’ economic insecurity, it is the source of official statistics and widely used by the media and others to describe the level of economic need in the United States. Furthermore, eligibility for many public programs is based on the poverty level. Understanding what accounts for trends in these official statistics will help policymakers craft better public policies to prevent families from living in poverty.

At the national level, family characteristics have had little relationship with whether children experienced increasing poverty between 2000 and 2004. Overall, increases in U.S. child poverty did not vary by parents’ employment status, parents’ education level, or parents’ nativity. These national statistics mask varying economic realities across regions. This report examines regional differences in the family characteristics of children who have seen the greatest rise in poverty.