According to data released last week from the 2017 American Community Survey, the national child poverty rate∗ has fallen to 18% — or roughly just over 13 million kids living in poverty today in the United States. This puts the national child poverty rate back to prerecession levels for the first time.
Even with these improvements, the Annie E. Casey Foundation points out that specific racial and ethnic groups still experienced child poverty at a rate that exceeded the national average. This includes children 5 and younger (20% are living in poverty) as well as children who are American Indian (33%), African American (33%) and Latino (26%). This racial disparity should not be ignored, given the negative outcomes associated with children who grow up in poverty, even as we consider the overall positive trend in the child poverty numbers.
In Maine, the data indicates a sharp reduction in the number of children living in poverty, from 43,000 to 33,000 between 2016 and 2017. Given the harmful short- and long-term effects associated with children growing up in poverty, this bodes well for the 10,000 Maine children who now stand to have a stronger foundation for their future success.
The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) released a report today highlighting the role of the minimum wage increase in this reduction in child poverty. We agree that by “increasing wages for working parents,” we can have “a real impact on their children’s futures.” Their analysis of the ACS data shows how the significant increase in income among the lowest-paid workers – due to the minimum wage increase – resulted in incomes that allowed hard working families in Maine to pull themselves and their children out of poverty.
Nationally, this data offers overall positive news for children living in poverty; and in Maine, it indicates that with a strong economy and better financial stability for families thanks to the minimum wage increase, fewer children will grow up facing the ill effects of living in poverty. We should not, however, be satisfied, until we can ensure that every child in Maine – including the 33,000 currently growing up in poverty – has the same opportunity for a happy and healthy childhood, and a strong and prosperous future.
∗According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the current poverty rate is set at an income of $24,838 for a family with two adults and two children