Essay: Child Poverty in America

The current economic crisis is almost guaranteed to inflate statistics, but according to the last census, more than 33 million people live in poverty in the United States. The amounts to about 12% of the total population. Families living in poverty are counted at 9% of the population or about 6.8 million families. These numbers have not changed dramatically from the 1970’s. What has changed is the composition of the people living below the poverty line.

The census divides the population into three groups; children up to aged 17, adults from aged 18 to 64, and the elderly, aged 65 and up. 16% of those living in poverty are children, larger than any other group. The working poor traditionally fluctuates, usually amounting to about 10% of the over all population. This number holds true in good economic times. However, the current economic cycle has pushed this number to almost double or 20%. The elderly tally similar figures.

Children below the poverty line live primarily in the west and southern parts of the country with many residing in rural areas. Central urban cities also tally higher percentages of children in poverty rivaling the numbers from rural areas. Poor children can live anywhere in the United States. No one area is free from poverty. The numbers are grim for children under the age of 6 who live with a single female parent. More than 54.8% of these children live in dire situations. Children under 6 with two parents are considered in poverty at about 10%. These numbers break down along racial lines to 26% of Blacks, 13% of Asians and Pacific Islanders, 26% of Hispanics, and 26% of whites. Overall 39% of the poor in America are children, while children make up only 26% of the total population.

Poverty of children in metropolitan areas stands at 16% with the city of New York topping the list. Children in nearby counties of huge metropolitan areas number about 19%. There are only seven states where child poverty rates were not higher or exceeded the median rates as found by the national census report. The federal poverty level is set at $19, 350 for a family of four. Families making less than $9765 are considered to live in extreme poverty. It is generally believed that a family four who isn’t making at least twice the federal poverty level limits cannot meet its debt responsibilities.

Today’s ongoing economic crisis and recession has severely inflated these numbers right along with the unemployment rate. The official numbers won’t be known until later in 2010 when the official census is complete. The census is slated to officially begin in March and is expected to take up much of the year. For this reason, the Obama administration has recently turned its attention toward getting America back to work. Solving this problem as well as the housing and lending crisis will go a long way in saving millions of people from the ever widening cycle of poverty.