The end of pandemic-era financial measures more than doubled the child poverty rate from 2021 to 2022, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.
In 2021, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) child poverty rate fell to 5.2% due to the pandemic-era child tax credit and other financial assistance that helped families. In 2022, the number climbed back to pre-pandemic levels at 12.4%. That figure is the largest increase in child poverty since the SPM, which factors in government aid, began in 2009.
The number of children living in poverty based on the SPM increased more than 5 million, from 3.8 million in 2021 to nearly 9 million in 2022.
The official child poverty rate, which does not consider government assistance, remained steady at about 15% from 2021 to 2022. Without factoring in government assistance, about 10.7 million children lived in poverty in 2022 compared to 11.1 million in 2021.
Key changes in federal tax policy included the expiration of temporary expansions to the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, as well as the end of pandemic-era stimulus payments.
Overall, refundable tax credits kept 6.4 million people of all ages out of poverty in 2022, 3.2 million less than in 2021, according to the reports.
“These numbers are a wake-up call to our elected officials,” said AAP President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP. “We must urgently prioritize children if we are to make any meaningful effort to reverse this alarming increase in child poverty. We know what works: policies like the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, investments in children's health through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and support for early child care and education. We need immediate, robust investments in these programs in order to lift children out of poverty.”
The real median household income fell by 2.3% from $76,330 in 2021 to $74,580 in 2022. Inflation rose 7.8% between those years.
Living in poverty is defined as a family with two adults and two children with an annual income below $29,678.
Across all ages, 37.9 million or 11.5% of people lived in poverty in 2022, but these figures are not statistically different from 2021.
The reports show that poverty rates have been falling for both Black and Hispanic individuals over the last couple of decades, although the rates continue to be substantially higher than for White families.
More people were insured in 2022 than in the previous year: 92.1% vs. 91.7%. However, 5.4% of children under age 19 years had no health insurance in 2022 compared with 5% in 2021.