Moral Low Ground



November 18, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Rich & Poor, US Government with 0 Comments

New data released by the Census Bureau shows that the number of poor children in the United States has soared by 1 million in 2010, with more than one in five U.S. children now living in poverty.

The Census Bureau defines poverty as an annual income of $22,314 or less for a family of four. In 2010, 15.7 million children lived in such households, up from 14.7 million in 2009.

Cheer up; you're not alone. (Photo: Sharon Pruitt)

The overall child poverty rate now stands at 21.6%, up from 20% in 2009. There are alarmingly stark racial disparities– 38.2% of black children and 32.3% of Hispanic children are living in poor households. White and Asian children are experiencing poverty rates below the national average.

There are also pronounced geographic differences, with 27 states experiencing a rise in child poverty. Mississippi (32.5%) has the highest average rate; in Washington, D.C. and New Mexico nearly one in three children are poor. New Mexico also experienced the largest (4.7) percentage increase in the number of poor children.

Nine states plus the District of Columbia have child poverty rates of 25% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

California has the highest number of children living in poverty– 2 million. Texas has 1.8 million; slightly less than 1 million live in Florida and New York.

At 10%, New Hampshire has the lowest child poverty rate.

In Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, a staggering 56.3% of children are living in poverty, although that is a slight decrease from the 57.1% who were in 2009.

“Poverty is a critical indicator of the wellbeing of our nation’s children,” the Census report begins. “Children who live in poverty, especially young children, are more likely than their peers to have cognitive and behavioral difficulties, to complete fewer years of education, and, as they grow up, to experience more years of unemployment.”

Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. fares very poorly. According to, only 2.6% of Swedish children are poor, and the following other countries all have child poverty rates below 10%: France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, Finland and Norway. Closest to the U.S. rate are Italy (20.5%) and Britain (19.8%). Shockingly, the U.S. rate of 21.6% is within 5 percentage points of Mexico’s rate of 26.2%.


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