The Ugly Truth about Childhood Poverty

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Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Children's Health

The facts and reasons may surprise you to know what living in poverty is really like when you’re a child,


Around 15 million children in the United States live with families below the poverty level- $24,250 for a family of four in 2015. Research has indicated on average an income of twice that amount is needed to cover basic household expenses. Among children under the age of 18 19.7 percent fell below the poverty line in 2015.

Around 29,00 children under the age of five – 21 each minute die every day mostly due to preventable causes which be prevented with proper nutrition, immunizations, clean water and sanitation. Children living in poverty are at risk for child marriages, sexual violence and abuse, sexual exploitation, physical violence and inadequate care. The following contains concerns of poverty.

Poverty Statistics for Children in the USA

In 2015, 14.5 million (19.7 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 45.7 million people living in poverty, 2.6 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (43.1 million).
Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.

Food Insecurities

Twelve states exhibited statistically significantly higher household food-insecurity rates than the U.S. national average 2013-2015 (13.7%): Mississippi 20.8%, Arkansas 19.2 %, Louisiana 18.4 %, Alabama 17.6 %, Kentucky 17.6 %, Ohio 16.1 %, Oregon 16.1 %, North Carolina 15.9 %, Maine 15.8 %, Oklahoma 15.5 %, Texas 15.4 %, Tennessee 15.1 %

In 2015, 59 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major federal food assistance programs.

Food Insecurities Health Concerns Among Children

They are more likely to require hospitalization. Food insecure children are more likely to have a higher risk for chronic health conditions such as anemia and asthma and more frequent instances of oral health problems. Young children who are food insecure are linked to poorer physical quality of life. These children may also experience an increase in various behavioral problems which includes fighting and bullying.

Food Deserts

Michelle Obamas Let’s Move! Initiative had included providing healthy, affordable foods. By the year 2011 major food retailers had made a promise to open or expand 1,500 grocery or convenience stores in neighborhoods with no supermarkets by 2016. The retailers by their own count have fallen short.

The Associated Press research had demonstrated major grocers had strongly avoided food deserts instead of making a profit in high poverty areas. The retailers had opened nearly 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011 to 2015. When you take away convenience stores and dollars stores that typically do not sell fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, that had left almost 250 new supermarkets that were in food deserts or in neighborhoods that did not have stores selling fresh produce or meat.

According to the USDA “Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food provide.”


Latest figures reveal among American children and teen’s ages two to 19, 3.5 percent are underweight which leads to health risks. Being underweight can be a sign of malnutrition, poverty and lack of access to healthy foods. Children are deprived of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients for proper health. Boys are 15 percent more likely to be underweight.

Growth Stunting

Growth stunting is the height for age below the fifth percentile on a reference growth curve, is traditionally used as an indicator of nutritional status in children. In the US poorer children growth stunting occurs more often which suggests proper nutrition is a problem for these children. According to parent reporting in the early 1++0’s between two and four million children under the age of 12 in the US sometimes or often did not receive enough food to eat. Not having proper nutrition can cause damaging results since physical, intellectual and social development depends on proper nutrition.

Growth stunting comes from prolong or repeated exposure to nutritional deficiencies.

Inadequate nutrition is just one reason for growth stunting. Other reasons include chronic or recurring infections. In children under the age of two it can be a reflection of low birth weight in a population and in rare cases it can be due to extreme psychosocial stress without nutrition deficiencies the best evidence currently available shows the rate of growth stunting among American children shows evidence of an association between growth stunting and poverty.

Lack of Access to Health Care

In a report Access to Health Care Part One; Children, the report was on children from infants through age 17 and used data from Access to Care and Health Insurance Questionnaires of the National Health Interview Survey.

When the child had no regular source of care respondents were asked to select from a list of possible reasons. The reasons for 34% of children was lack of health insurance or cannot afford, 32% said child does not need doctor and 17% included previous doctor not available, do not know where to go or care is too far away/no care available or not convenient.

Even under the Affordable Care Act many uninsured cite the main reason of not having insurance is due to the high cost of insurance. Most uninsured are low income families and have at least one worker in the family. Adults are more likely to be uninsured than children.


Most parents make sure their children are vaccinated against potentially serious diseases. There are three vaccine series that include a booster dose in the second year of life: the vaccines that prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and Pneumococcal disease (PCV). There is lower coverage of boosters among children living in poverty compared to children above the poverty line. Children in poverty had lower with vaccines for r poliovirus, rotavirus, and the hepatitis B series.

Families that need assistance to pay for childhood vaccines should talk to their healthcare provider about Vaccines for Children program, which provides free vaccines for uninsured children and those with financial barriers. To find a local healthcare professional who participates in the program, parents can call their local health department or go online to


Among gangs there are 40% of juveniles (under 18) and 15% of juvenile gang members in prison are female and85% are male.

An article appearing in The Trauma & Mental Health Report titled “Poverty, Broken Homes, Violence: The Making of A Gang Member (Nov. 4, 2011) it notes there are several risk factors that have been identified that increases the chance of teen joining a gang. Among the factors were growing up in poverty, histories of sexual or physical abuse and lack of success such as school. Gangs give young adults a sense of belonging, power, control and prestige commonly identified as missing in childhood.

Child Soldiers

Child soldiers are anyone under the age of 18 years that get recruited from state and non-state armed group and are used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes.
Children who live in poverty, are displaced from their families have limited access to education or live in combat zone. These children are usually forcibly recruited.

Human Trafficking

Poverty is a major cause that makes individuals vulnerable. ECPAT-USA wants to call attention to the fact more than 100,000 children fall victim to sex trafficking every year in the United States. Another factor is child slavery with the false hope of escape on part of the children or parents. Parents will often trust wealthier neighbors or friends to take of their children but these children are often sold.

Child Labor

Child labor exists not only in foreign countries but the United States as well. A child’s human rights are violating in serval ways with one being in the agriculture section. Children are working on farms have no protection from dangers of dangerous tools and equipment and dangers of farm work. In 2012 data from the government reveled over 1,800 non-fatal injuries occurred in children under 18 working on farms and two-third died from work injuries on the farm.

There is no information available on how many children work on tobacco farms. Some children are paid minimum wage and others receive less than minimum and no overtime pay is included. Children have work on tobacco farms at 11 or 12 years to help support their family. Children are exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides.

Child Brides

Poverty is one of the main reasons of child marriages with more than half being from poor households. In the United States thousands of children fewer than 18 years old have been married. Most are girls married off to adult men. Every US state allows exemptions for children under 18 to wed.

In New Jersey between 1995 and 2012 163 children ages 13 and 15 were married the only way to do this was with judges consent.


National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health
Talk Poverty
the State of Obesity, A project of the Trust for America’s Health, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton University
Feeding America
Retrieved January 6, 2017, from
American Nutrition Association
The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation
Helping Gang Youth
The Borgen Project
Reiss, F. (2016, April 10). America’s child-marriage problem. The Opinion Pages. Retrieved from


Childrens Health, Childs Rights, Poverty, Poverty In America, Poverty Line, Public Health

Meet the author

author avatar authordeb
Author of the Love and Laughter series
Alternative Medicine Practitioner
Freelance Health Write
Works with Media companies for interviews and articles such as Howie Mandel for Afib,

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