Rural Childhood Poverty Gap Widens

The disparity in poverty rates between metropolitan and non-metropolitans Americans is greatest among children. And the youngest children have it worst, an ERS report shows.


USDA Economic Research Service

The poverty rate is higher in nonmetropolitan counties, but the gap is biggest among children under six years of age. Rural children under six have a 6.4 point higher poverty rate. The gap narrows as age groups get older, until there’s just a 1 point difference for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan senior citizens.

America’s youngest children have the highest rates of poverty compared to other age groups, and rural kids have the worst rates of poverty compared to all other age or geographic groups.

A chart from USDA Economic Research shows that 30.3 percent of nonmetropolitan children under the age of six live in poverty, while 23.0 percent of metropolitan under-six kids do.

The gap between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan poverty rates narrows for older groups of Americans, until the two rates are only a percentage point apart for senior citizens.

Child poverty is an important predictor of future economic health, the ERS study says. “Child poverty often has an impact that carries throughout a lifetime, particularly if the child lived in poverty at an early age.”

The study says child poverty is more sensitive to labor markets because children rely on the earnings of adults. “Older members of the labor force, including empty nesters and retirees, are less affected by job downturns, and families with children need higher incomes to stay above the poverty line than singles or married couples without children,” according to ERS

From January 2014 to January 2015, nonmetropolitan counties lost about 300,000 jobs, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

[imgcontainer][img: childpov2013.PNG][source]Daily Yonder/ERS Atlas of Small Town and Rural America

The interactive map shows the poverty rate for under 18-year-olds in nonmetropolitan counties. The scale moves from green (lowest rate) to dark red( highest rate) by quartiles. Green is a rate of under 18.8 percent. Brown is 18.8 to under 25.3 percent. Light red is 25.3 to less than 32.3 percent . Dark red is 32.3 percent and higher. Click the map to make it interactive and explore county-level data.

The poverty rates in the ERS report are based on Census estimates for 2013 and have a margin of error, which is noted in information included in the accompanying interactive map.

To see child poverty figures for U.S. counties, click on the interactive map and then on any county. The darkest red counties are nonmetropolitan counties with the highest rates of childhood poverty. Green counties have the lowest. Metropolitan counties are gray.

The map shows concentrations of rural childhood poverty in the South and Southwest, while the Midwest and Great Plains tend to fare better, with some significant exceptions in parts of those regions.

Also notable for its child-poverty rates are the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula and Indian Country in the Midwest and West.