Lessons from a Historic Decline in Child Poverty

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The past quarter century witnessed an unprecedented decline in child poverty rates. In 1993, the initial year of this decline, more than one in four children in the United States lived in families whose economic resources—including household income and government benefits—were below the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) threshold. Twenty-six years later, roughly one in 10 children lived in families whose economic resources were below the threshold. This is an astounding decline in the child poverty rate, which has seen child poverty reduced by more than half (59%; see figure below). The magnitude of this decline in child poverty is unequaled in the history of poverty measurement in the United States.

A groundbreaking new report from Child Trends examines the factors contributing to this historic decline in child poverty, and explores:

  • What led to this historic decline in child poverty?​ What roles have economic, labor market, and demographic factors played in explaining the declining poverty rate among children? ​
  • Did all groups of children experience a similar decline?
  • Has the social safety net improved over time at protecting children from poverty? ​For which children has the social safety net worked and who has it left behind?

The report sets out to answer these questions, and understand the constellation of influences that led to this decline, with the hope that lessons learned would help policymakers sustain—and accelerate—progress.

Based on the findings in the report, authors make five recommendations addressing the social safety net and economic and social constraints that place certain demographic groups at higher risk of experiencing child poverty.  These recommendations are made in hopes that federal, state, and local officials will maintain our collective progress in reducing child poverty and to reduce persistent disparities in child poverty.

Read the full report and recommendations:

Lessons From a Historic Decline in Child Poverty.


Related: On November 18, 2022, ECFC hosts a funder briefing with researchers from Child Trends and the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development (RAPID) Project to unpack what data, and families themselves, tell us about poverty declines and what it means for families and young children. Learn more.

Photo credit: Thomson, D., Ryberg, R., Harper, K., Fuller, J., Paschall, K., Franklin, J., & Guzman, L. (2022). Lessons From a Historic Decline in Child Poverty. Child Trends.

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