Black children among the nation’s poorest

Freddie Allen | 9/30/2013, 12:14 p.m.
As the American economy stumbles through an uneven economic recovery, Black children continue to suffer record levels of poverty, including ...
Kourtney Marie Davis, 3, sits in a chair as her mother Angelic Davis talks about being homeless in Dallas, during an interview on Dec. 12, 2011. The recession and unemployment over the past few years have created a “manmade disaster” that has caused a steady increase in the number of homeless children in the state, making Texas the worst place in the nation for homeless children, according to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness. Though the economy and employment seems to be improving, continued cuts to benefits for the economically disadvantaged may push more families into the streets. LM Otero

WASHINGTON – As the American economy stumbles through an uneven economic recovery, Black children continue to suffer record levels of poverty, including 1 in 4 Black children under 5 years of age that live in extreme poverty, according to the Census Bureau.

The report that tracks income, poverty and health insurance coverage found that income remained relatively flat for the major racial groups. The median income for Blacks was $33,321, the lowest for all racial groups. The median income for Whites was $57,009 and Asians reported the highest household income at $68,636. For Latinos, the figure was $39,005.

Since 2000, Black income has declined at a higher rate than all other racial groups. According to the Census Bureau report, Black household income is 15.8 percent lower than it was in 2000. White income fell 6.3 percent over the same time period.

The Census Bureau reported that 46.5 million Americans live in poverty, including 10.9 million Blacks. Even though Blacks account for a little more than 13 percent of the total population in the United States, they make up 27.2 percent of Americans living in poverty. In comparison, Whites make up roughly 63 percent of the total population in the U.S. and 40.7 percent of the poor population.

A family of four is considered poor when their annual income dips below $23,492. Extreme poverty sets in when the annual income for a family of four falls below $11,746.

Nearly 38 percent of Black children are considered poor compared to 12.3 percent of White children who live in poverty. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 23 percent of Black children under the age of five live in extreme poverty.

“The child poverty rate is still at record levels,” said Caroline Fichtenberg, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund. “At a time when we see corporations earning record profits, at a time when we see income for the top-earners continuing to increase, poor children are not getting any relief.”

Fichtenberg continued: “It reinforces the idea that we really can not cut the safety net for children right now.”

Yet, that’s exactly what lawmakers did when they let sequestration, a set of harsh federal budget cuts totaling $85 billion, take effect last March, instead of coming to an agreement on the federal budget. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 57,000 children have been cut from Head Start and Early Head Start, due to sequestration.

“We’re just not making the investments that we know need to happen,” Fichtenberg said. “We are cutting the safety net, sequestration has been cutting children from Early Head Start and Head Start which are key programs for children helping them to get on the path to educational success and life success.”

In order to reverse trends in children’s poverty rates, Fichtenberg said that the administration should focus on funding the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, improving investments in early education, and creating good jobs that pay a living wage.

House Republicans focused on poverty by pushing deeper cuts in safety net programs. Last week, the United States House of Representatives, led by a Republican majority, passed a bill that would slash SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) by nearly $40 billion over ten years. Experts warn that the cuts would push our nation’s poorest deeper into poverty.