Children in Poverty


In 2010, more than one in five children (22 percent) lived in families with incomes below the poverty line, the highest level since 1993; by 2014, this had fallen to 21 percent. Black and Hispanic children, children living in single-mother families, and children under five are even more likely to be poor.


Since the mid-1970s, children under 18 have been much more likely than adults to be poor.[1] Being raised in poverty (defined as income of $24,008 or less in 2014, for a family of four with two children) [2] places children at higher risk for a wide range of problems. Research indicates that poor children are disproportionately exposed to factors that may impair brain development [3] and affect cognitive, social, and emotional functioning. These risks include environmental toxins, inadequate nutrition, maternal depression, parental substance abuse, trauma and abuse, violent crime, divorce, low-quality child care, and decreased cognitive stimulation (stemming in part from exposure, in infancy, to a more restricted vocabulary[4],[5],[6]

While determining causality is complex in this context, experiencing poverty is also related to increased risks of negative health outcomes for young children and adolescents. When compared with all children, poor children are more likely to have poor health and chronic health conditions.[7] Children in poor families are more likely to be born premature and at a low birth weight, and to develop later illnesses, such as respiratory diseases. As adolescents, poor youth are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, such as personality disorders and depression. Moreover, in comparison to all adolescents, those raised in poverty engage in higher rates of risky health-related behaviors, including smoking and early initiation of sexual activity.[8],[9],[10]

Aside from physical and mental health, poverty in childhood and adolescence is associated with a higher risk for poorer cognitive and academic outcomes, lower school attendance, lower reading and math test scores, increased distractibility, and higher rates of grade failure and early high school dropout.[11],[12] Poor children are also more likely than other children to have externalizing and other behavior problems, or emotional problems,[13],[14] and are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors during adolescence.[15] Finally, growing up in poverty is associated with lower occupational status and lower wages,[16],[17] poorer health,[18] and deficits in working memory[19] in adulthood.

Reporting on child poverty rates at a single point in time gives an under-estimate of its deleterious effects, since research shows that persistent poverty, as well as poverty experienced in the childhood’s early years, is most detrimental to development.[20] Nearly four in ten children are poor for one or more years before they reach age 18—nearly double the point-in-time estimate. More than one in ten are poor for half or more of their childhood years.[21]

Source: Child Trends

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World Family Map 2015: Mapping Family Change and Child Well-Being Outcomes


The World Family Map report monitors the global health of families by tracking 16 indicators in 49 countries, representing all regions of the world. This year’s report includes an essay examining how parents divide labor-force participation, housework, and child care.

Source: Child Trends

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Expanding Early Care and Education for Homeless Children | Early Childhood Development | Administration for Children and Families


Ensuring the early learning and development of our country’s youngest children is essential to ACF’s work. Supporting the well-being of these young children and their families is an urgent task and one that is critical to improving the long-term educational outcomes of children nationwide.

Several federal policies and programs are in place to strengthen the ability of early care and education (ECE) providers to serve young children experiencing homelessness. Whether you are in a Head Start program, early childhood program, or work at the state level on early childhood systems and services, the resources listed below will assist you in ensuring that these young children are prioritized for services that support their learning and development.

Resource Guides

Policies and Guidance


Related ACF Blog Posts

Additional Resources

Source: Administration for Children and Families

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Family Financial Stability


Financial stability is a critical part of family well-being. Increasing family financial security can lead to positive, long-term outcomes for families and children. Use the following resources to learn more about asset-building. Find strategies to share with families, such as participating in financial literacy activities and claiming tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center, National Center on Program Management and Fiscal Operations

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Using What You Know To Plan For Child Success: Data-Drive Decision Making in Early Childhood Environments (Webinar)

Tuesday, Oct 20, 2015 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM EDT

Please join Penn Foster and Amanda Schwartz, Ph.D. for Using What You Know To Plan For Child Success: Data-Drive Decision Making in Early Childhood Environments. When working with young children and their families, you constantly learn about the families you serve. Learn a way to formally collect this information, analyze it, and use it to make decisions that will improve child and family outcomes. Data-driven decision making helps you target what children and families need most, and identify what strategies will work best. This session will offer you a better understanding of how to collect and use information you already collect about children and families to improve your environment and instruction.

Source: Penn Foster Education

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Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters 


The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters is intended to help shelter staff ensure their facilities are safe and appropriate for the development of young children. Facilities and professionals that can use this tool include:Natural Disaster SheltersDomestic Violence SheltersMaternity Group HomesFamily SheltersContinuums of CareEarly Care and Learning ProvidersWays to Take ActionBuild relationships with your Local Shelter Board and local Continuum of Care to emphasize the need for homeless services that are tailored for young children.Share this tool with other emergency shelter providers in your area, either informally or through your community’s Local Shelter Board and Continuum of Care.Connect with your local Head Start program and Child Care Resources and Referral agency.Review recommended strategies for increasing early care and education services for homeless children.Resources Related to the Self-Assessment ToolGuide to Developmental and Behavioral Screening for housing and shelter providersIn Case of Emergency FormChildproofing ChecklistSpecial Care Plan

Source: Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families

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Maternal and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation (MIHOPE) Check-In project–Update contact information, consent forms, child and family outcomes survey


The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), in partnership with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), both of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is proposing a data collection activity as part of the Maternal and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation (MIHOPE) Check-In project. The purpose of the MIHOPE Check-In project is to maintain up-to-date contact information for families that participated in MIHOPE the national evaluation of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, so it is possible to conduct future follow-up studies and assess the potential long-term impact of the program. In addition to contact information, the MIHOPE Check-In project will also maintain up-to-date consent forms for the collection of administrative data and administer a brief survey on child and family outcomes.

Source: Federal Register, Volume 79 Issue 161

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Measuring What Matters: Using Data to Support Family Progress


Wondering how you can use data to strengthen your work with families? Explore this series to learn relationship-based ways to partner with families and support progress on PFCE Outcomes.

Source: National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement

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The Short- and Long-Term Impacts of Large Public Early Care and Education Programs: ASPE Research Brief


Research consistently finds that high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs promote children’s school readiness and other positive outcomes. This brief describes what’s known about the short- and long-term impacts of large public (i.e., at-scale) ECE programs in the United States for children prior to kindergarten entry – including what key features of programs lead to the best outcomes, and how to sustain program benefits as children grow older. This brief does not include the many smaller ECE programs, including model or demonstration programs in the U.S. and abroad, that have also been evaluated; please see other reports for information on the short- and long-term impacts of these programs.

Answers the questions:

  • What are the short-term impacts of early care and education programs on children’s outcomes?
  • What are the long-term impacts of early care and education programs on children’s outcomes?
  • What do we know about the “fadeout” or “catch- up” phenomena in terms of sustaining impacts?
  • How does participation in education during early childhood affect long-term outcomes?
  • Do all children benefit from high-quality early care and education? Do some children benefit more?
  • What are the key features of high-quality early care and education programs?

Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

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Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Children’s Progress During Head Start – FACES 2009 Child Outcomes Report


This report describes the family backgrounds and developmental outcomes of children as they completed the program and also describes progress in children’s outcomes between Head Start entry and exit. It focuses on the population of children who entered Head Start for the first time in fall 2009 and completed one or two years of the program in spring 2010 or spring 2011 before entering kindergarten. This report on children’s kindergarten readiness is the third in a series of reports describing data from the 2009 cohort of the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES 2009). Previous FACES 2009 reports described the characteristics of children and their families and programs as they entered Head Start in fall 2009 and at the end of one year in the program.

Source: Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families

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