Child poverty doubled in 2022 as pandemic benefits ended

By: - September 12, 2023 2:32 pm

Students getting their l lunch at a primary school in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Amanda Mills/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A slew of pandemic-era programs like the expanded child tax credit, stimulus checks and expanded SNAP benefits successfully reduced child poverty to record-low levels. 

But when those benefits expired, the child poverty rate more than doubled, returning to pre-pandemic rates. In 2022, 12.4% of children were in poverty, compared to 5.2% in 2021, according to data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

The rise in child poverty underscores the calamitous effect that ending the programs — the child tax credit in particular — had on millions of American children.

Overall, the poverty rate increased by about five percentage points over 2021 levels, climbing to 12.4%, according to the supplemental poverty measure — a more complete measure of poverty than the official poverty rate.

Minnesota is better off than other states, averaging a 5.5% poverty rate over the past three years, the third-lowest rate in the nation.

The pandemic-era programs also narrowed the racial disparities in child poverty. Now, however, Native American, Black and Hispanic children are more than twice as likely to be poor than white children.

Social Security continues to lift millions of people — mostly Americans older than 65 — out of poverty each year. In 2022, 29 million people were lifted above the poverty line by Social Security; the overall poverty rate would have been nearly 9 points higher without the program.

Refundable tax credits also reliably lift people out of poverty. In 2022, refundable tax credits kept 6.4 million people out of poverty, according to the Census Bureau analysis. 

SNAP, free school meals and Supplemental Security Income also kept people out of poverty. 

The DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature in 2022 approved a number of measures meant to continue combating child poverty, including a refundable Child Tax Credit, tax rebate checks and free school meals statewide.

Medical costs were the top factor pushing people into poverty. Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, which are regressive, federal income taxes and work expenses also had a negative impact on the overall poverty rate.

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Madison McVan
Madison McVan

Madison McVan is a Report for America corps member who covers economic mobility for Minnesota Reformer. She previously covered agriculture for Investigate Midwest after graduating from the University of Missouri in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Latin American studies.