Children Living in Poverty: Facts, Effects & Statistics

Children Living in Poverty: Facts, Effects & Statistics
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  • 0:00 Prevalence of Child Poverty
  • 0:30 Raising a Child in Poverty
  • 1:09 Educational Achievement Gaps
  • 1:58 Health
  • 3:21 Dangerous Living Conditions
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

More than 14% of the U.S. population lives in poverty. The most innocent victims are the children. Let's take a look at what children of poverty may experience, including health issues, homelessness, inadequate education experiences, and even violence.

Prevalence of Child Poverty

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 14% of the United States population lives in poverty. That means a family of four with two adults and two children try to get by on about $24,000 a year. The USDA Center for Policy and Promotion reports the cost of raising two children at a whopping $18,000 annually. This leaves very little left for anything more than necessities.

Raising a Child in Poverty

A day in the life of Hernando, a typical 16-year-old boy from Overtown, Florida, may provide insight into the everyday challenges of living in poverty. Overtown is an ethnically diverse community. The median annual income is $15,000, compared to Florida's median income of almost $47,000. Hernando's is truly a poverty-stricken neighborhood.

It's not uncommon for children living in poverty to experience unstable home environments, homelessness, and even household violence. Persistent poverty, meaning poverty lasting more than a short period, has even worse consequences, including social and emotional issues.

Educational Achievement Gaps

Children like Hernando living in poverty are clearly disadvantaged in many ways. The American Psychological Association contends that children living in poverty are more likely to perform poorly in school. In fact, children of poverty are 4 ½ times more likely to drop out of school.

For a boy like Hernando, this statistic can mean the difference between a life on the streets or a college education. The fact is, a typical school in Hernando's neighborhood reports:

  • 71% graduation rate
  • 45% proficiency in standardized mathematics test scores
  • 19% proficiency in standardized English test scores
  • 18% of students are college-ready

The academic achievement gap is especially profound with African American and Hispanic children when compared to their White counterparts.


Not every child receives proper healthcare either. For one, infant mortality is high in cases of parents living in poverty. Low birth weight is also common. A study conducted in some of Canada's most impoverished neighborhoods revealed that low birth weight was as much as 66% more prevalent than that of mothers in higher income areas. Low birth weight comes with many future concerns, like developmental and neurological problems. This is mostly because moms-to-be living in poverty are often unable to afford prenatal care.

Hernando and his family try their best to follow a healthy diet. But with money so tight, he often finds himself ordering low-cost meals from fast food restaurants. For Hernando, it's a filling meal, but his health may suffer as a result.

Health and wellbeing are also affected by poverty. Limited availability of healthier, more costly food options leads to poor nutrition. Poor food choices leads to an unhealthy diet. This combined with limited opportunities for physical activity may cause obesity.

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