Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Child poverty hit record low in U.S. in 2021, Census data show

The child poverty rate fell to a record-low 5.2 percent in 2021, down from 9.7 percent in 2020 and 27.9 percent in 1993, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report Tuesday. The Census report also found that the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped to 8.3 percent, or 27.2 million people, last year, from 8.6 percent in 2020. 

The drops were attributed largely to temporary expansions of the social safety net during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the augmented child tax credit enacted in 2021's American Rescue Plan, and increased Medicaid enrollment tied to a COVID relief bill passed in March 2020. 

The child tax credit expansion, which expired at the end of 2021 and has not been renewed, gave parents more money to spend on essentials, says Sharon Parrott at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities."They spend it on their housing, food, education, they're able to do some of those extracurricular activities that high income families take for granted," she told NPR. "They are investing in their kids and their families are able to make ends meet in really important ways." The loosened Medicaid rules will likely expire in a few months. 

"Fewer children growing up in poverty is good for the future," said Renee Ryberg, who examined the new Census data for a report by Child Trends. "It's as simple as that." That report found that child poverty has fallen in every state and disparate households — white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, immigrants, with one or two parents. "A childhood free of poverty predicts better adult outcomes in just about every area you can imagine, including education, earnings, and health," Ryberg tells The New York Times.