Understanding the Geography of Growth in Rural Child Poverty

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Author(s): U.S. Department of Agriculture - Economic Research Service

  • David McGranahan

Published: July 5, 2015

Report Intro/Brief:
"Poverty always signifies economic stress, but poverty among children is particularly problematic as it can be detrimental to health and economic well-being as they make their way to adulthood. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) showed that nearly 2.6 million nonmetropolitan children younger than 18 years old lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line. The overall nonmetropolitan area child poverty rate of 26 percent was markedly higher than the 1999 rate of 19 percent reported for the same area in the 2000 Census. It was also higher than the 2013 metropolitan rate of 21 percent (up from 16 percent in 1999).

The problem of high and rising rural child poverty has been widespread but not pandemic across rural areas. Child poverty rates varied considerably across nonmetropolitan (rural) counties according to 2009 to 2013 county averages (county data on poverty are only available from the ACS for 5-year averages). One in five rural counties had child poverty rates of over 33 percent in 2009/13, but another one in five had child poverty rates of less than 16 percent. Overall, county average rates of child poverty rose from 20 percent to 25 percent over 1999-2009/13, with the proportion of counties with child poverty rates of over 33 percent doubling in this period. Meanwhile, estimated child poverty rates declined in one in five counties. To better understand this diversity of experience, we examine three factors shaping the geography of the change in rural child poverty over this period: changing economic conditions, young adult education, and family structure."