The percentage of persons younger than 18 years who live in households at or below the poverty threshold.



Children in Poverty: Iowa

Iowa Children in Poverty (1990-2013) see more
  • The percentage of persons younger than 18 years who live in households at or below the poverty threshold.

Children in Poverty

United States Children in Poverty (1990-2013) see more
  • The percentage of persons younger than 18 years who live in households at or below the poverty threshold.


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Core Measure Impact
Children in Poverty
Related Measures
Children in Poverty
Thematic Map
Children in Poverty


Children in Poverty is the percentage of related persons younger than 18 years living in a household that is below the poverty threshold. The 2013 poverty threshold established by the US Census Bureau for a household of 4 people in the lower 48 states is $23,550 in household income.[1] The 2013 ranks are based on 2012 data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

The effect of poverty on health has been clearly documented with higher rates of many chronic diseases and shorter life expectancy.[2] [3] Poverty’s effect on more vulnerable populations such as children is even greater. Poverty directly influences a family’s ability to meet the basic needs of their children and limits access to health care, healthy foods, educational opportunities, and choices for physical activity. Children in poverty are roughly 3 times more likely to have unmet health needs than other children.[4] Growing up in poverty has many well documented negative health effects from birth to adulthood. Children born into poverty are more likely than other children to be low birthweight and die within the first month after birth.[5] As these children grow up they are more likely to engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors and are at a greater lifetime risk of many different health problems.[6][7] Due to the increase in poor health found in children in poverty, the estimated direct medical cost of children in poverty is $22 billion.[8] Existing government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are designed to help alleviate some of the ill effects of poverty. In addition, there are many other government programs and community interventions that have helped to reduce the number of children in poverty, as well as the burden of poverty on children, yet poverty and its negative effect on health persist today.

The percentage of children in poverty ranges from 9.7 percent of persons younger than 18 years in Wyoming to a high of more than 30.0 percent in New Mexico and Louisiana. The national average is 21.3 percent of persons younger than 18 years, similar to last year’s rate of 21.4 percent and a 24 percent increase from 16.3 percent of persons younger than 18 years reported in the 2003 Edition.

Healthy People 2020 is tracking the proportion of children aged 0 to 17 years living in poverty for informational purposes.


[1] US Department of Health and Human Services. 2013 Poverty Guidelines. Accessed October 23, 2013.

[2] Fiscella K. Poverty or income inequality as predictor of mortality: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. 314.7096 (1997):1724.

[3] Adler NE, Ostrove JM. Socioeconomic status and health: What we know and what we don't. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999;896(1):3-15.

[4] Newacheck PW, Hughes DC, Hung YY, Wong S, Stoddard JJ. The unmet health needs of America’s children. Pediatrics. 2000;105(4):989-97.

[5] Moore KA. Children in poverty: Trends, consequences and policy options. Child Trends. 2002.

[6] Lowry R. The effect of socioeconomic status on chronic disease risk behaviors among US adolescents. JAMA. 1996;276(10):792.

[7] Wood D. Effect of child and family poverty on child health in the United States. Pediatrics. 2003;112(suppl 3):707.

[8] Holzer HJ, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty. The Economic Costs of Poverty in the United States Subsequent Effects of Children Growing Up Poor. Madison, WI: Institute for Research on Poverty; 2007.