The number of children under 18 living below the federally defined poverty line, expressed as a percentage of all children under 18 within a racial and ethnic group. Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2019, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $25,926.
Children raised in impoverished environments are at higher risk for a wide variety of health and social problems, including poor performance in school. Racial and ethnic disparities in child poverty rates stem from complex and interrelated reasons. Research suggests they include both historic and modern-day discrimination, as well as public policies that reinforce or do not address racial inequities in income, education, housing and other factors that are critical to economic mobility.
Poverty rates were much higher among African American (24%) and Hispanic (26%) children than among white children (10%) in 2015-19. Since 2000, this represented a decrease of 8 percentage points among Hispanic children, a decrease of 3 points for African American children and an increase of 2 percentage points among white children.
Compared to Massachusetts, Essex County's poverty rate for white children was similar, while its rates were 5 percentage points lower for Hispanic children and 2 points lower for Black children. Rates in Essex were similar to the nation for Hispanic children, but 9 percentage points lower for Black children and 5 points lower for white children. Child populations for most other local areas, when broken down by race and ethnicity, were too small to yield reliable survey results.
All the comparison counties had similar racial and ethnic disparities. Essex, however, had the highest poverty rate for Hispanic children compared to Lake, IL (19%), Westchester, NY (18%) and Middlesex, MA (23%). The rate for African American children in Essex was lower than Lake, but similar to Middlesex and higher than Westchester (19%).
Large and persistent disparities in poverty rates are the result of historic and current policies and practices that disadvantaged people of color. Research has connected slavery and the inability of black Americans even after emancipation to fully participate in economic life to the wealth and income gaps still present today. Poverty crosses generations, resulting in high rates of child poverty rates. Factors include: living in a single-parent household, especially if the single parent is female; having parent(s) who are unemployed, employed and/or underemployed in low-wage jobs or incarcerated; and living in communities that have experienced disinvestment and have ineffective and/or under-resourced schools.
Poverty status is not reported for people in institutions, including college dormitories and military barracks, and people in living situations without conventional housing. The Census Bureau asks people to identify their race (white, African American, etc.) separate from their ethnicity (Hispanic or non-Hispanic). So the totals for these categories cannot be added together, as people show up in both a racial and ethnic group.
The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined 5 years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with three asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval). The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are released annually in December.