Child Poverty 
               "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me;
            and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me......."     
                                                                                                Luke 9:47

About 11.9 million children in the United States – 16.2% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, (for a family of four, $25,750) a measurement that has been shown to underestimate the needs of families. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 36% of children live in low-income families.


Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty.


Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. But effective public policies – to make work pay for low-income parents and to provide high-quality early care and learning experiences for their children – can make a difference. Investments in the most vulnerable children are also critical.

The goal of the National Center for Children in Poverty’s (NCCP) is to help policymakers create a work support system that enables all full-time workers to provide for their families and ensures that earning more always improves a family’s financial bottom line.

Low wages mean that millions of parents work full-time, year-round and yet struggle to provide even minimum day-to-day necessities for their families. Government “work supports”—such as earned income tax credits, child care subsidies, health insurance, food stamps, and housing assistance—can help. These benefits encourage, support, and reward work, helping families close the gap between low wages and basic expenses.

In practice, however, few families receive all of the benefits for which they are eligible, and even multiple supports are often not enough to enable working families to make ends meet. Moreover, work supports are typically means-tested, and families tend to lose benefits before they can get by on earnings alone. In some cases, small increases in earnings can trigger sharp reductions in benefits, leaving families no better off—or even worse off—than before. In short, working more doesn’t always pay.

Given that official poverty statistics are deeply flawed, the National Center for Children in Poverty uses “low income” as one measure of economic hardship. Low income is defined as having income below twice the federal poverty level — the amount of income that research suggests is needed on average for families to meet their basic needs. About 36 percent of the nation’s children — nearly 27 million  — live in families with low incomes, that is, incomes below twice the official poverty level (for 2018, about $51,500 for a family of four).

Although families with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty level are not officially classified as poor, many face material hardships and financial pressures similar to families with incomes below the poverty level. Missed rent payments, utility shut offs, inadequate access to health care, unstable child care arrangements, and running out of food are not uncommon for such families.

Low-income rates for young children are higher than those for older children — 49 percent of children under age six live in low-income families, compared to 43 percent of children over age six. Parents of younger children tend to be younger and to have less education and work experience than parents of older children, so their earnings are typically lower.

Economic hardship and other types of deprivation can have profound effects on children's development and their prospects for the future — and therefore on the nation as a whole. Low family income can impede children's cognitive development and their ability to learn. It can contribute to behavioral, social, and emotional problems. And it can cause and exacerbate poor child health as well. The children at greatest risk are those who experience economic hardship when they are young and children who experience severe and chronic hardship.

It is not simply the amount of income that matters for children. The instability and unpredictability of low-wage work can lead to fluctuating family incomes. Children whose families are in volatile or deteriorating financial circumstances are more likely to experience negative effects than children whose families are in stable economic situations.

The negative effects of low income on young children are troubling in their own right, but they are also cause for concern because they are associated with difficulties later in life — dropping out of school, poor adolescent and adult health, and poor employment outcomes. Stable, nurturing, and enriching environments in the early years help create a sturdy foundation for later school achievement, economic productivity, and responsible citizenship.

Parents need financial resources as well as human and social capital (basic life skills, education, social networks) to provide the experiences, resources, and services that are essential for children to thrive and to grow into healthy, productive adults — high-quality health care, adequate housing, stimulating early learning programs, good schools, money for books, and other enriching activities. Parents who face chronic economic hardship are much more likely than their more affluent peers to experience severe stress and depression — both of which are linked to poor social and emotional outcomes for children.

In CT, 14.5% of children live in poverty. That's more than 110,682 kids!!!

In Connecticut, there are 425,400 families, with 771,084 children. Among these children, 30 percent (232,258) live in families that are low-income, defined as income below twice the federal poverty level (nationally, 43 percent of children live in low-income families). Young children are particularly likely to live in low-income families.
Updated: October 2019