Latest Census Figures on Child Poverty Merit a “Thumbs Up,” But There’s More to Come

There seems to be far more bad news than good surrounding us these days. And so, the U.S. Census Bureau’s release this week of 2016 data on poverty, income, and health insurance released this week contains some good news that’s worth spreading. While the numbers don’t warrant a big celebration, they certainly call for a “thumbs-up.”

Poverty is at pre-recession levels, having declined from 13.5 percent in 2015 to 12.7 percent in 2016 — a reduction of 2.5 million people. And household earnings have gone up: The median household income increased 3.2 percent from 2015 to $59,000 — the highest ever recorded by the Census. Finally, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire calendar year declined slightly to 8.8 percent and 28.1 million. Definitely thumbs-up findings.

The next step is taking a deep dive into the numbers and what they truly mean. The National Center for Children in Poverty is among the many organizations that have already begun that process. Because we conduct actionable research to improve the lives and futures of poor children and their families, our focus is on those at the bottom of the economic ladder. So, here are some of the questions we’ll be looking into:

  • We know that in 2016 there were 48.3 million women working full time, year-round, but how many of them were mothers with young children, and what were their annual earnings?
  • We know that children under 18 years old are the poorest residents of our nation — 18 percent are living in poverty — but by using the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which extends the official poverty measure by taking into account many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families, we can see that the child poverty rate fell by 1.1 percentage points from 2015, down to 15.1 percent. That’s a statistically significant decline. And it should come as no surprise that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) prevented 3.6 million people from living in poverty in 2016. But how can we keep those figures moving in the right direction?

Please stay tuned. There may be more good news on the way, and more reasons to support the social safety net programs that are essential to supporting the healthy growth and development of our nation’s children.

Originally published at

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