Child Poverty Doubled Last Year–We Owe Children So Much More

The share of children living in poverty increased dramatically in 2022, according to Census Bureau data released today. The Current Population Survey data on income and poverty showed that the child poverty rate more than doubled from 5.2 percent in 2021 to 12.4 percent in 2022, using the Supplemental Poverty Measure. The share of children living in deep poverty rose from 1.4 percent of all children in 2021 to 3.3 percent in 2022. Latinx/e (19.5 percent)  and Black children (17.8 percent) had the highest child poverty rates, followed by Asian children (9.9 percent), and non-Latinx/e White children (7.2 percent). The data also show that poverty increased for other groups most exposed to hardship, including those without citizenship (15.8 percent in 2021 to 24.4 percent in 2022) and people with disabilities (15.8 percent in 2021 to 23.0 percent in 2022). This increase in poverty is striking given the strong job market in 2022, and directly attributable to the choices that policymakers have made to roll back critical economic security programs that were expanded during the pandemic, and, as the data make clear, are necessary at all times. 

A primary driver of the sharp increase in child poverty in 2022 was the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), which kept 5.3 million people out of poverty in 2021, but only 2.4 million people in 2022. The American Rescue Plan temporarily bolstered the CTC in 2021, increasing the benefit levels to up to $3,600 per child and making families with the lowest incomes eligible for the full credit for the first time. Research has exhaustively documented the benefits of the expanded CTC, particularly for Black, Latinx/e, and other families of color who had been disproportionately excluded from the full CTC previously, and have traditionally faced the greatest barriers to accessing economic security programs due to systematic discrimination and administrative hurdles like burdensome paperwork.

As previous research has shown, the expiration of the CTC expansion in January 2022 caused immediate hardship for the families with children.

  • A nationally representative survey led by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), conducted in partnership with CSSP and other researchers and advocates, found that sixty percent of families who previously received the monthly payments had more difficulty meeting their expenses after the payments stopped. Among these families, approximately two-thirds had difficulty covering basic expenses, including food and groceries (66 percent). Respondents with low incomes, Hispanic respondents, and respondents with disabilities were particularly likely to report difficulty meeting monthly expenses after the payments ended. The survey also drove home how the expiration of the expansion affected children, as parents reported increased stress, decreased ability to afford toys, gifts, and activities for children, and decreased time to spend with children.
  • CSSP’s qualitative research with Black, Latinx/e, and other parents of color found that when the CTC payments ended, caregivers struggled to make ends meet—picking up second jobs, going further into credit card debt, and cutting expenses. In the end, they were not able to parent as they wanted to parent, and as the CTC had enabled them to parent for a short time. Rachelle, who lives in North Carolina with her five-year-old daughter, explained that the ending of the CTC monthly checks ultimately forced her to take a second job working at a child care center, on top of her full-time job as a preschool teacher. As a result she doesn’t have as much time with her daughter, regularly missing dinnertime, and they aren’t able to drive to visit extended family, which the CTC monthly payments had made possible. Rachelle’s daughter told her “I miss my grandma, I want to see my aunties.”

We know what families need. As CSSP’s research has shown, permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit, so parents and caregivers have access to a regular guaranteed income to help meet their families’ needs, could be transformative—providing foundational support raising the next generation, without the red tape and administrative burdens that limit access to existing government programs, especially for families of color. As Sandra, a mother of two in Mississippi, told CSSP, “I’m like a raft. I’m in the water, you put pressure on me and hold me down, I’m under the water. But as soon as you move off me, let me up a little bit, I got the float, I got the rise.” A permanent child allowance can let families rise—permanently providing the resources parents and caregivers’ need to fulfill their own vision for their children’s and families’ future. 

The government response to the pandemic demonstrated both the value and feasibility of more robust government assistance—and a child allowance in particular. Child poverty is a crisis that demands support for families at all times, not just during economic downturns, or public health emergencies. Today’s Census data release makes clear that child poverty is a policy choice. We know what families need and we know what works. We call on Congress to make the right choice and restore the expanded Child Tax Credit to all families who need it.