NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Child Poverty Rates Drop -- More In Some States Than Others

August 11, 2000

Nationwide, the proportion of children living in poverty has declined significantly during recent economic boom times. And some states have made greater progress than others. Nevertheless, child poverty is still higher than it was 20 years ago, according to a study by the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University.

  • More than 13 million children live in poverty, the study reports -- 3 million more than in 1979.
  • From 1994 to 1998, the child-poverty rate nationwide declined 17.1 percent -- following an increase of 38.8 percent from 1979 to 1993.
  • Some states -- such as Illinois and New Jersey -- have seen significant declines in the numbers since 1979, while others have seen increases or relatively minor declines.
  • States which have a poor record in this area include New York, California and Georgia.

Experts note, however, that Illinois started overhauling its welfare system in 1993 -- earlier than most other states. And it allowed welfare recipients to continue receiving health benefits and food stamps while easing into full-time employment.

New Jersey's success may be due, in part, to its policy of using savings from cuts in welfare payments to help people who get off welfare. For example, the state shifted $100 million that had previously been spent on welfare checks to subsidies for child care.

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

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