The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual poverty figures recently that painted a dire picture of one in five children under 18-years-old lived in poverty in 2011. According to Bread for the World’s analysis of the hunger and poverty data, this includes 16.1 million children, or 21.9 percent. The numbers also indicate that over a quarter of all children under 5-years-old lived in poverty in 2011.
While the debate still rages over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s "47 percent" comment, the new data finds that 44.3 percent of children (32,678,000 million) were poor or near poor in 2011; nearly one in ten, lived in extreme poverty.
The 2011 breakdown for children of color shows that 42.7 percent of African-American children under 5, and 36.0 percent of Hispanic children under 5 lived in poverty. Those poverty numbers drop slightly when looking at all children under 18 years of age, with 38.8 percent of African-American children and 34.1 percent of Hispanic children.
Bread for the World says these official poverty numbers could have been “significantly worse” if it were not for federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or the Child Tax Credit (CTC). “If the data accounted for SNAP, it would show 3.9 million fewer people in poverty, including 1.7 million children. If it accounted for the EITC, the number of people in poverty would fall by 5.7 million people, including 3.1 million children,” notes the organization.
“With poverty holding at such a high rate, the importance of federal safety net programs is clear,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
“Federally funded programs play a tremendous role in reducing poverty and helping to keep hunger at bay, but the official data often excludes their impacts.”
Overall, 15 percent of the U.S. population - more than 1 in 7 - lived below the poverty line in 2011 ($22,811 for a family of four with two children) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 41.1 percent of overall households with incomes below the official poverty line were “food insecure” in 2011. According to the Census Bureau, since 2010, these numbers did not change and it was the first time in the last four years there was not a significant increase in poverty.