Poverty Persists
Subject Child poverty
Topic Income Distribution and Poverty
Key Words Boom, poverty, poverty rate, poverty line, wages, living costs, minimum wage, welfare reform, employed poor, benefits
News Story

The current economic boom has reduced child poverty levels, but they are still higher than in 1979. According to Census data, the child poverty rate was 18.7 percent in 1998, whereas it was 16.2 percent in 1979. Now 13 million children live in poverty. The poverty line was $16,666 for a family of four in 1998.

The reasons for the persistence of child poverty include low wages and high living costs. The minimum wage is too low to bring single-earner households out of poverty. Welfare reform has reduced the income of some recipients. The employed poor often have unsteady hours and few benefits. Some others cannot find jobs. To add to this, poor people often live in cities with a high cost of living.

(Updated September 1, 2000)


1. How is the official poverty line (or level) calculated?
2. Explain

a) How welfare reform has increased the poverty rate.
b) Why the poverty rate has improved over recent years.

3. Children were not always the age group most afflicted with poverty.

a) Which age group had the highest poverty rate thirty years ago?
b) How was their situation improved?

Source Don Terry, "U.S. Child Poverty Rate Fell as Economy Grew, But Is Above 1979 Level," The New York Times, August 11, 2000.

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