Children in Poverty


Years of Collection:

Why do we measure children in poverty? 

More children than any other age group in the U.S. live in poverty, and poverty is particularly high among Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Native Alaskan children.(1,2) When children grow up in poverty, they are more likely to have inadequate nutrition, limited access to health care services, unstable housing, lower quality of schools, and exposure to environmental toxins.(3,4) These disadvantages can put them at increased risk of teen pregnancy, incarceration, and not graduating high school — all of which can lead to worse financial and physical health.(5,6) Tracking children in poverty is important because children lack control of their social and economic conditions.

How do we measure children in poverty?

This metric includes children, younger than age 18, who live in households with income less than 100% of the federal poverty level.

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

The economic status of children is not included in the other economic measures presented on the Dashboard (income inequality, excessive housing burden, and unemployment). 

Measuring children in poverty is key to understanding the cycle of poverty and predicting health outcomes for future generations.(6)

There are other ways of defining poverty, such as 125% or 150% of the federal poverty level.

This metric does not indicate children’s length of time living in poverty. 

The children in poverty measure does not include homeless children or households in poverty that do not include children.


Children in poverty are calculated by the following formula:

Children in poverty = [Children aged<18 living in households below the federal poverty level ]/Total children aged<18 living in households x 100%

This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information on the calculation, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.  

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from American Community Survey data using the B17020 table(s).  


  1. Proctor BD. Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the united states: 2010. Report P60-256 September Census Bureau. 2011.

  2. Koball H, Jiang Y. Basic Facts about Low-Income Children: Children under 18 Years, 2016. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health;2018.

  3. Brooks-Gunn J, Duncan GJ. The effects of poverty on children. The future of children. 1997:55-71.

  4. Ekono MM, Jiang Y, Smith S. Young children in deep poverty. 2016.

  5. Dreyer BP. To Create a Better World for Children and Families: The Case for Ending Childhood Poverty. Academic Pediatrics.13(2):83-90.

  6. Conroy K, Sandel M, Zuckerman B. Poverty grown up: how childhood socioeconomic status impacts adult health. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP. 2010;31(2):154-160.

Last updated: January 24, 2023