In US, Black Children in Poverty Now Outnumber White Children in Poverty

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Screen shot of chart from Pew Research Center

There are three times as many white children in the United States, but for the first time since the United States Census began collecting data in 1974, data appears to indicate that there are now more black children in poverty than white children in poverty.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of impoverished black children in 2013 was 4.2 million. The number of impoverished white children was 4.1 million and decreased about 700,000 since 2012.

The poverty rate for black children was at 38.3% in 2013 and is slowly returning to the level it was at in 1976.

“Black children were almost four times as likely as white or Asian children to be living in poverty in 2013, and significantly more likely than Hispanic children,” the Pew Research Center found.

Twenty-seven percent of the black population are children, however, 38% of blacks in poverty are children. Similarly, Hispanic children make up 33% of all Hispanics but 42% of Hispanics in poverty are children.

Meanwhile, the number of white children in poverty is slowly decreasing and are not overrepresented. “Children make up roughly equal shares of the white and Asian populations and of whites and Asians living in poverty.”

The fact that the poverty rate for black children is holding so steady is a story that receives very little attention in the media, and it is partly why Pew Research Center analyst Eileen Patten and a colleague chose to highlight these latest statistics

“The fact that the trajectory has been different for blacks than for these other groups, that caught our attention,” Patten told the New York Times. “We were surprised the story had not been told like this since this data had been around for a while.”

The trend is likely related to the fact that black unemployment rates remain so high. However, what is contributing to the steadiness of black children in poverty was outside the scope of statistics compiled for this latest report from the Pew Research Center.

Last year, the Children’s Defense Fund reported a “black baby is born into poverty every two-and-a-half minutes and into extreme poverty every four-and-a-half minutes.” In six US states, “half or more black children are poor,” and in “nearly half” of the US, Black child poverty is 40% or more.

Part of what fuels poverty for black children is the fact that black households typically earn much less than white households. In 2011, a black household earned 94% less than the average white household.

Average annual income for a black family in 2012 was $35,700. A white family’s average annual income, on the other hand, was around $75,500.

Growing Global Inequality Gap ‘Has Reached a Tipping Point’

‘When such a large group in the population gains so little from economic growth, the social fabric frays and trust in institutions is weakened.’

By Nadia Prupis

With the gap between the rich and poor growing worldwide, a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published Thursday suggests that the only way to reverse such rampant inequality is by implementing government measures aimed at balancing the playing field

Chief among those measures: Tax the rich and push for gender equality.

In its 34 member states, income inequality has reached record highs, the OECD found in its study, In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. The average income of the top 10 percent was 9.6 times higher than the bottom 10 percent, the OECD found. In the U.S., it was 19 times higher.

“We have reached a tipping point,” said OECD secretary-general Ángel Gurría. “The evidence shows that high inequality is bad for growth. The case for policy action is as much economic as social. By not addressing inequality, governments are cutting into the social fabric of their countries and hurting their long-term economic growth.”

“In recent decades, as much as 40% of the population at the lower end of the distribution has benefited little from economic growth in many countries,” the study found. “In some cases, low earners have even seen their incomes fall in real terms. When such a large group in the population gains so little from economic growth, the social fabric frays and trust in institutions is weakened.”

Working conditions have also deteriorated, largely due to the rise of a “non-standard” economy that incentivizes part-time work, self-employment, and temporary contracting.

“Between 1995 and 2013, more than 50 percent of all jobs created in OECD countries fell into these categories,” the OECD stated in a press release on Thursday. “Low-skilled temporary workers, in particular, have much lower and instable earnings than permanent workers.”

However, the study found that an increase in the number of women working “helped stem the rise in inequality, despite their being about 16% less likely to be in paid work and earn about 15% less than men.”

Inequality is highest in Chile, Mexico, the United States, Turkey, and Israel. It is lowest in Denmark, Slovenia, Slovak Republic and Norway.

Higher inequality also drags down economic growth by making opportunities more scant for the bottom 40 percent and often preventing low-income children from receiving quality education, or enough of it. The long-term rise of inequality “has indeed put a significant brake on long-term growth,” from developed nations to emerging economies, the OECD found.

“If the bottom loses ground, everyone is losing ground,” the report states.

The OECD recommends a wide range of solutions to reverse the growing wealth gap, including removing the obstacles that prevent mothers from working; doing more to provide youth with useful skills and allow workers to continue updating those skills over time; and redistribute wealth through taxes and transfers, which the report describes as a “powerful instrument to contribute to more equality and more growth.”

“In recent decades, the effectiveness of redistribution mechanisms has been weakened in many countries,” the OECD states. “To address this, policies need to ensure that wealthier individuals, but also multinational firms, pay their share of the tax burden.”


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