When It Comes To Reducing Child Poverty Rates, Researchers Say It’s All About Safety Nets

Research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found on-the-ground safety net programs have brought millions of children out of poverty.

Photo via Stockpic/Pixabay.


The child poverty rate in the U.S. dropped to a historic low of 15.6% in 2016.

We’ve seen years where the poverty rate among kids is higher than the poverty rate among adults. That’s right: The biggest population of impoverished citizens in the U.S. is children. A child living in poverty is defined as any child in a family with an income below the federal poverty line. In order to cover a child’s basic needs, that family needs to earn approximately twice the poverty line income (in 2017 the federal poverty line for a family of three was $20,420 in 48 states and Washington, D.C.).

Here’s the good news: The child-poverty rate fell to a record low in 2016. So the country’s making progress. A new analysis put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the child-poverty rate came down to 15.6% in 2016. It was 18.1% in 2012.

The decreased rate of child poverty is thanks in part to the job market. Because of the increased demand, more parents have been able to find work. And a better job market means employers are motivated to offer higher wages in order to keep their workers around.

However, a better job market doesn’t necessarily help the poorest Americans. It helps the Americans who already have jobs, for the most part. What has helped combat child poverty more are governmental programs that directly cater to the least fortunate citizens. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities researchers found that on-the-ground safety net programs have helped millions of children get out of poverty. These types of programs include food stamps and the Child Tax Credit, which grants a credit of up to $1,000 per child on income taxes.

There’s still work to be done, of course. Among developed nations, the U.S. has some of the highest child-poverty rates, even with the recent decrease. France and Germany both had a child-poverty rate of under 10% in 2013. That’s why these safety net programs are imperative if we’re serious about continuing the reduction of child poverty.

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