Child Poverty Rises

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Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009

U.S. Census Bureau

The child poverty rate rose last year to the point where one-fifth of the nation's children live in poverty, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The poverty rate for children (under age 18) rose from 19 percent in 2008 to 20.7 percent in 2009, or by 1.4 million children. The Census Bureau said 15 million children now live under the federal poverty level.

Among different ethnic groups, the rates are:

African-American - 35.7 percent

Hispanic - 33.1 percent

White - 17.7 percent

Asian - 14 percent

Overall, the number of Americans living in poverty rose from 39 million in 2008 to 43 million in 2009, an increase from 13.2 percent of the population to 14.3 percent.

The increases reflect the impact of the recession, and prompted a flurry of statements from child advocates.

“Our best hope for reversing this tragic trend is to give every child a quality education and proper nutrition,” said Mark Shriver, senior vice president of U.S. Programs for Save the Children.  

While the number of people without health insurance also increased, the number of uninsured children remained flat. For that President Obama cited the “substantial expansion” of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which “helped inoculate our children from the economic distress experienced by their parents.”

Bruce Lesley, president of the child advocacy group First Focus, suggested that the stability in health insurance “highlights once again that targeted federal investments in the health care safety net make a huge difference in the lives of children.”

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