The number of children living in poverty in the United States increased by 2.6 million since the recession began in 2007, bringing the total to an estimated 15.7 million poor children in 2010, according to researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
The researchers estimate that nearly 1 in 4 children under the age of 6 now live in poverty.
Big cities and rural areas have the highest rates of poverty among young children. Thirty-one percent of children under age 6 in America’s cities and 30 percent of young children in rural areas are poor.
In contrast, 19 percent of young children living in the suburbs are poor.
“It is important to understand young child poverty specifically, as children who are poor before age 6 have been shown to experience educational deficits, and health problems, with effects that span the life course,” the researchers said.
The report was based on the U.S. Census Bureau annual report on poverty, which outlined the dramatic decline in income and employment in the U.S. The definition of poverty was an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for a single person in 2010.
The census data showed the median annual household income falling 2.3 percent to $49,445. The 46.2 million Americans living in poverty is the highest amount since the Census began recording the statistic 52 years ago.
Researchers found that the number of children living in poverty increased from 14.7 million in 2009 to 15.7 million in 2010.
The South has the highest rates of child poverty at an estimated 24.2 percent, and the Northeast has the lowest rates at an estimated 17.8 percent.
Mississippi has the highest percentage of children living in poverty at 32.5 percent and New Hampshire has the lowest percentage of children living in poverty at 10 percent.
“That child poverty is continuing to rise in the aftermath of the recession highlights the necessity of policies that can support vulnerable children and families,” the researchers said. “Congressional concerns over the federal debt have already resulted in an agreement that will force significant cuts to domestic spending, including many programs that serve children and families.”
“Though budget cuts are unavoidable, policy makers should carefully consider how cuts are distributed, keeping America’s most vulnerable families in mind as the effects of the recession reverberate, as demonstrated by high child poverty rates.”
The research was conducted by Jessica Bean, Beth Mattingly and Andrew Schaefer. The full report is available here (PDF).