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U.S. Census Shows Alarming Trends for Children and Families

by Deirdre Byrne, Director of Policy, Children's Health Fund

The U.S. Census released data on income, poverty and health insurance for 2010 and the news for children and families isn’t good.  The numbers tell the story of a country facing lasting effects of the economic downturn.  More children are facing poverty and millions are facing deep poverty. Children living in poverty are more likely to be uninsured, have fragmented health care access, do poorly in school, experience food insecurity and are more likely to experience poverty as an adult.


The recession has hit home with a record number of Americans are living in poverty.  The impact of the economic downturn has taken its toll on children and families across the country and the numbers are staggering.

  • In 2010, 16.4 million children, 22 percent, lived in families with incomes below the poverty line which is defined as a family of four with income below $22,000 a year.  From 2007 to 2010, the number of children living in poverty increased by 3 million.
  • Deep poverty persists for millions of children. In 2010, 9.9 percent, 7.4 million children, lived in families with income below 50 percent of the poverty threshold, income below $11,000 a year, up from 9.3 percent, 6.9 million, in 2009. 
  • Children living near the poverty level grew as well.  The percentage and number of children living in fami­lies with income below 125 percent of the poverty threshold in 2010 were 27.8 percent and 20.7 million, up from 26.3 percent and 19.6 million in 2009.
  • In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009—the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty
  • The number of people in poverty in 2010, 46.2 million, is the largest number of people living in poverty since records were kept on this statistic starting in 1959.
  • The official poverty rate for all Americans in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009.  This was the third year in a row that the poverty rate has increased.

Health Insurance

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program continue to act as bulwarks against the rising tide of families without private insurance.

  • In 2010, the rate (9.8 percent) and number of children without health insurance (7.3 million) were not statistically different from 2009 estimates.
  • In 2010, the rate of private coverage decreased to 64.0 percent, from 64.5 percent in 2009. The rate of private coverage has been decreas­ing since 2001.


Families are making less than they were in 2009 and persistent downward trends in income over the past decade show household income is lower than 1999 levels.

  • Real median household income was $49,445 in 2010, a 2.3 percent decline from 2009. Since 2007, median household income has declined 6.4 percent (from $52,823) and is 7.1 percent below the median household income peak ($53,252) that occurred in 1999.
  • For families, declines in income have been steady since 2007.
  • For families headed by single females, income dropped 3.3 percent between 2009 and 2010.

Unfortunately, the programs that have safeguarded millions of children are at risk of historical cutbacks.  Right now, Congress is working on the next stage of a budget bill that may cut millions from Medicaid, CHIP, community health centers and other critical safety net programs. Read more here.

To read the full report, visit the Census website.