Carsey Institute: More Than 16 Million Children in Poverty in 2011


DURHAM, N.H. – Between 2010 and 2011, the child poverty rate rose modestly across the nation to 22.5 percent. Today 16.4 million children live in poverty; 6.1 million of them are under age six, according to researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

In addition, 45 percent — 32.7 million of America’s children — live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

“It is important to understand young child poverty specifically, as children who are poor before age 6 have been shown to experience educational deficits, and health problems, with effects that span the life course,” the researchers said.

To evaluate the changes in child poverty, researchers focused on two time periods — change since 2007, as the nation entered the recession, and change since 2010. They also looked at young children — children under 6 years old — living in poverty as well as national poverty rates for all children under 18. The researchers also examined the rate of deep poverty among children, considering how many children live below half the federal poverty line.

Nationally, the number of all children living in poverty increased from 15.7 million in 2010 to 16.4 million in 2011. In 2007, 13.1 million children were living in poverty nationally. In 2011, the poverty line as determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for a family of four (two adults, two children) was $22,811.

Since 2007, nearly every state has seen an increase in child poverty. Mississippi has the highest percentage of children living in poverty at 31.8 percent, followed by the District of Columbia (30.3 percent) and New Mexico (30.7 percent). New Hampshire has the lowest percentage of children living in poverty (12 percent), followed by Maryland (13.5) and Alaska (14.5 percent).

Overall, the South has the highest rates of child poverty at an estimated 25.1 percent, and the Northeast has the lowest rates at an estimated 18.8 percent. In addition, 29.5 percent of children in urban areas and 26.3 percent of children in rural places now live in poverty, significantly higher than the 17.1 percent in suburban areas.

Nationally, the number of young children — those under 6 years old — living in poverty increased from 5.9 million in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011, with 25.6 percent of young children now poor. Young child poverty increased in all regions of the country. In the South, 28.4 percent of young children live in poverty, followed by 25.2 percent in the Midwest, 24.0 percent in the West, and 21.86 percent in the Northeast.

The country also saw an increase in children living in deep poverty – those with a total income that is less than half the poverty threshold for their family type. More than 10 percent of America’s children, or more than 7.3 million, live in deep poverty, a significantly greater share than in 2010 and an increase of more than 2 percentage points since before the Great Recession began.

The research was conducted by Jessica Bean, vulnerable families research associate at the Carsey Institute; Beth Mattingly, director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey Institute and research assistant professor of sociology at UNH; and Andrew Schaefer, a doctoral student in sociology at UNH and research assistant at the Carsey Institute.

This analysis is based upon U.S. Census Bureau estimates of poverty from the 2007, 2010, and 2011 American Community Survey. For more details or information, please refer to the U.S. Census American Community Survey. The complete Carsey Institute report about this research is available at

The Carsey Institute conducts policy research on vulnerable children, youth, and families and on sustainable community development. The institute gives policy makers and practitioners the timely, independent resources they need to effect change in their communities. For more information about the Carsey Institute, go to

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state’s flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.

U.S. map of states with children living in poverty, 2011

U.S. map of states with children living in households with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, 2011

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