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More American Children Living in Poverty than Ever, But Public Programs Keep Kids' Health Coverage Steady
Press Release

September 14, 2011

Megan Curran
202.657.0684 (office)

Washington, DC- Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data showing that the number of children living in poverty continues its steady increase, claiming close to an additional 1 million children from 2009-2010. And while the number of adults living without health insurance significantly increased over the last year, the uninsured rate for children did not. The Census report shows that in 2010, 16.4 million children were living in poverty and 7.3 million were without health insurance.


The Census data indicates that 22 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty, as compared to 20.7 percent in 2009. 1 in 10 children, or 9.9 percent, live in deep poverty (below 50 percent of the federal poverty line), on annual household incomes less than $11,056. Since the start of the recession in 2007, the number of children living in poverty has increased by over 3 million, including an increase of 1.6 million children living in deep poverty. Children represent 24.4 percent of the total U.S. population, but 35.5 percent of all people living in poverty and 36 percent of all people living in deep poverty.

“In just three years, the recession has increased the number of children in poverty by 3 million. The fact that well over 1 in 5 American children currently live below the poverty line and 1 in 10 children live in extreme poverty necessitates the introduction of a long-term child poverty reduction strategy,” Lesley added. “The federal government must act now to lead the effort to halve this figure over the next decade. Children are a quarter of our nation’s population, but bear a disproportionate brunt of the increases in and costs of poverty, as even a temporary spell of poverty as a child results in long-term negative effects on their well-being and future development.

“Success for children, even in tough economic times, can be realized in the U.S. by strengthening our current programs and setting a national goal to eradicate child poverty. Congress and the President must ensure that our proven income support and early childhood programs are protected and any efforts towards deficit reduction do not jeopardize the continuity of vital services such as nutritional assistance, Unemployment Insurance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Child Support Enforcement, and access to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – particularly as the EITC alone successfully kept 3 million children from falling into poverty in 2010.”

First Focus has released a series of reports on how a national child poverty target can take shape in the U.S., including a December 2010 report on what elements comprise a successful child poverty reduction strategy and a June 2011 report on how it would be possible for the federal government to commit to fighting child poverty through a recession and even in the midst of deficit reduction.


The year 2010 saw the number of children without health insurance hold steady with 7.3 million children uninsured.

“Despite the devastating impact of the economy which has produced a grave increase in child poverty, and an increasingly high number of adults without health insurance, the uninsured rate for children remained flat,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the bipartisan child advocacy group, First Focus. “This is entirely due to the overwhelming success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and highlights once again that targeted federal investments in the health care safety net make a huge difference in the lives of children. We are pleased that Medicaid and CHIP allowed us to hold the line on numbers of uninsured kids but, with over 7.3 million kids living without insurance, there is more work to be done. We must continue and strengthen enrollment especially for non-white children, children living in the South and West and youth.”

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