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In US, Black Children in Poverty Now Outnumber White Children in Poverty

Screen shot 2015-07-14 at 4.44.42 PM

Screen shot of chart from Pew Research Center

There are three times as many white children in the United States, but for the first time since the United States Census began collecting data in 1974, data appears to indicate that there are now more black children in poverty than white children in poverty.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of impoverished black children in 2013 was 4.2 million. The number of impoverished white children was 4.1 million and decreased about 700,000 since 2012.

The poverty rate for black children was at 38.3% in 2013 and is slowly returning to the level it was at in 1976.

“Black children were almost four times as likely as white or Asian children to be living in poverty in 2013, and significantly more likely than Hispanic children,” the Pew Research Center found.

Twenty-seven percent of the black population are children, however, 38% of blacks in poverty are children. Similarly, Hispanic children make up 33% of all Hispanics but 42% of Hispanics in poverty are children.

Meanwhile, the number of white children in poverty is slowly decreasing and are not overrepresented. “Children make up roughly equal shares of the white and Asian populations and of whites and Asians living in poverty.”

The fact that the poverty rate for black children is holding so steady is a story that receives very little attention in the media, and it is partly why Pew Research Center analyst Eileen Patten and a colleague chose to highlight these latest statistics

“The fact that the trajectory has been different for blacks than for these other groups, that caught our attention,” Patten told the New York Times. “We were surprised the story had not been told like this since this data had been around for a while.”

The trend is likely related to the fact that black unemployment rates remain so high. However, what is contributing to the steadiness of black children in poverty was outside the scope of statistics compiled for this latest report from the Pew Research Center.

Last year, the Children’s Defense Fund reported a “black baby is born into poverty every two-and-a-half minutes and into extreme poverty every four-and-a-half minutes.” In six US states, “half or more black children are poor,” and in “nearly half” of the US, Black child poverty is 40% or more.

Part of what fuels poverty for black children is the fact that black households typically earn much less than white households. In 2011, a black household earned 94% less than the average white household.

Average annual income for a black family in 2012 was $35,700. A white family’s average annual income, on the other hand, was around $75,500.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."