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Why Focus on Poverty?


Poverty Affects Child Health and Well-Being

  • Poverty is damaging to children’s health. Children living in poverty are at a significant health disadvantage because of what being poor does to a variety of developing physiological systems.
  • Research shows that living in poverty can have detrimental health consequences that are severe and lifelong. But by advocating for families and helping them access resources, pediatricians can help mitigate those effects.
  • Childhood poverty is associated with lifelong hardship and linked to multiple health problems that can be costly to treat and cause outcomes that can limit economic potential.
  • Research now shows us that giving children a healthy start pays off in health and well-being. This is not just important for children and their families, but for society as a whole.

Nearly Half of All Children Live In Or Near Poverty

  • Poverty happens everywhere. While urban and rural areas continue to have high rates of poverty, the suburbs have experienced the largest and fastest increases in poverty since the 2008 recession.
  • Pediatricians in every community need to understand the health risks of poverty and how to connect families to a network of local support programs
  • In 2014, 21.1% of all children under age 17 lived in poverty (15.5 million children)
  • In 2014, 42.9% of all children under 18 lived in low-income households (31.5 million children)
  • African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children are more likely to live in poverty than are white and Asian children.
  • Young children are more likely to live in poverty than older children

Pediatricians Can Make a Difference

  • Pediatricians have regular contact and long-term relationships with families. They are uniquely positioned to help identify problems and link children to much-needed resources.

Read AAP policy statements and learn more about the impact of poverty on child health

Mediators and Adverse Effects of Child Poverty in the United States. Pediatrics. March 2016
Pascoe JM, Wood DL, et.al; American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Council on Community Pediatrics.

Poverty and Child Health in the United States. Pediatrics. March 2016
Duffee JH; Kuo A, et. al; American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Community Pediatrics. Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Child Poverty in the United States, Academic Pediatrics, April 2016
Edited by Benard Dreyer, Paul J. Chung, Peter Szilagyi, Shale Wong

​Learn more about the demographics of child poverty in the United States

National Data

State Data
Annie E. Casey Foundation. Kids Count Data Book ​
National Center for Children in Poverty

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