Children do not have the political clout of seniors in the United States, and the Urban Institute projected last year that by 2028 only 7 percent of the federal budget will go toward spending on children, as Social Security and Medicare account for an ever-growing share of the budget. By 2035, according to projections from the Census Bureau, people over 65 are expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. By then, residents under 18 will represent only 19.8 percent of the national population, down from 22.8 percent in 2016.
The national numbers obscure the fact that the children’s population is still skyrocketing in many states, and many of these states have low scores in child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report. The annual report measures children’s welfare by health, education, economic indicators such as the poverty rate, and “family and community,” which includes measures like single-parent households and teen pregnancies. This year, New Hampshire and Massachusetts scored the highest on “child well-being,” while New Mexico and Louisiana were at the bottom.
Texas (which added 2.5 million children), Florida (1.2 million) and California (1.1 million) have accounted for half the total growth in the number of children in the United States since 1990; all rank in the bottom half of states in the Kids Count report. Every state but four in the South and West saw its child population grow; conversely, a majority of states in the Northeast and four states in the Midwest, both regions that tend to have higher child well-being scores, saw their child populations decline.
The following statistics are from the 2019 edition of “Ending Child Poverty Now,” published by the Children’s Defense Fund.
CHILD POVERTY AT A GLANCE
Children are the poorest age group in America.
A child is born into poverty every 41 seconds in America.
Nearly 1 in 3 of those living in poverty are children. Over 12.8 million children were poor in 2017.
Of these children, nearly 5.9 million lived in “extreme poverty,” that is, below half the poverty line.
The youngest children are the poorest during their critical years of brain development.
Nearly 1 in 5 infants, toddlers and preschoolers are poor.
More than 1 in 3 Native American and black children under 5 are poor.
Nearly half of all poor children under 5 live in extreme poverty.
Poverty affects all children, but disproportionately children of color.
More than 2 in 3 poor children are children of color.
Nearly 1 in 3 Native American children and more than 1 in 4 black and Hispanic children are poor, compared with 1 in 9 white children.
Poverty affects children in rural, suburban and urban communities.
60 percent of poor children live outside major cities—in suburbs, smaller non-metropolitan cities and rural areas.
2 in 3 poor children in related families live with an adult who works.
Nearly 1 in 3 live with a family member who works full-time, year-round.
CHILD POVERTY RATES BY STATE (2017)