Childhood Poverty

Childhood poverty, as measured by the proportion of children under 15 years of age living in families at or below the poverty level.


Social Environment

Rationale for use of indicator

Children depend on their parents for economic support, and if their parents incomes are not sufficient, the children are both at risk and unlikely to have adequate access to care


Childhood poverty is on the one hand an indicator of high risk for health problems, risks that may vary by age. For the youngest, these risks include inadequate nutrition, child care and health care as well as exposure to trauma and environmental toxins. For older children, the risks relate to health, school success, lack of opportunity, and juvenile crime.

Childhood poverty is on the other hand an indicator of a low ability to address these risks. Children in these circumstances are more likely to have untreated health conditions because of a lack of access to care. When they and their parents seek care for their problems, they often must turn to the hospital emergency room, which does not provide continuity or preventive care.


Many children in this group are eligible for the WIC program, reduced-price school meals, and Medicaid benefits although the coverage of children is much more limited than it is for older persons.

Data Source

Data from 1995 Population Estimates of Poverty, U.S. Census.

Poverty data denominator from U.S. Census 1995 Population Estimates.


Children at Risk. The indicators. [Web Page]; [Accessed 19 Jul 1999].

Institute of Medicine. 1997. Improving health in the community: A role for performance monitoring. Washington, D.C.:

National Academy Press. National Center for Health Statistics. Health status indicators: Definitions and national data. Healthy People 2000 Statistical Notes 1992;1(3):1-8.