Almost half of US children lived in poverty

by Abinash Mohanty

Forty-four percent of children experienced poverty for at least two consecutive months, also known as episodic poverty, between 2013 and 2016, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

This rate was nearly triple the episodic poverty rate for individuals ages 65 and over.

The new report, Dynamics of Economic Well-being: Poverty, 2013-2016, includes longitudinal statistics like episodic and chronic poverty and the median length of poverty spells.

Seniors and children typically remained in poverty longer than working-age adults, based on the median length of poverty spells by age group.

It shows the episodic poverty rate was higher (44%) for children (under age 18).

Seniors (ages 65 and over) had the lowest episodic poverty rate among all age groups with a rate of 15.8%. Working-age adults (ages 18-64) had a higher rate of 33.6% but still lower than the rate for children.

Across age groups, shorter poverty spells were much more common than multi-year poverty spells between 2013 and 2016.

Chronic poverty describes individuals in poverty for all months of the 2013-2016 period studied. As a result, the chronically poor are also captured within the episodically poor, as they have more than two consecutive months in poverty.

As with episodic poverty, children also had the highest chronic poverty rate (4.6%) among all three age groups from 2013 to 2016. The chronic poverty rate for seniors was 1.5%, the lowest among all age groups, and 2.4% for working-age adults.

The length of a poverty spell represents the number of consecutive months an individual was in poverty. A group’s median poverty spell length can provide information on its ability to exit poverty.

Seniors and children typically remained in poverty longer than working-age adults, based on the median length of poverty spells by age group.

While seniors notably had the lowest episodic poverty rate among all age groups, those in poverty appeared to have difficulty exiting poverty.

Seniors’ median poverty spell length (12.4 months) was longer than it was for working-age adults (10.1 months) and was not statistically different than for children (11.8 months) from 2013 to 2016.

Abinash Mohanty is a statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

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