Here’s the most important point of data in the entire debate over school reform: 21.8 percent of American children under the age of 18 lived in poverty in 2012, according to new Census Bureau statistics released on Tuesday.
That percentage, the same as in 2011, means that children continue to be America’s poorest people — and the younger they are, the worse off they are.The percentage of children under the age of 5 living in poverty is 25.1 — and almost 1 in 10, or 9.7 percent, live in extreme poverty.
The new data also show that 13.7 percent of Americans who live in poverty are from 18 to 64 years old, and 9.1 percent are those aged 65 and older.
Those hardest hit are children of color: 37.9 percent of black children lived in poverty in 2012, and 33.8 percent of Hispanics did as well. Compare that to 12.3 percent for white, non-Hispanic children.
What does living in poverty mean? The federal government defines poverty this way: For a family of four, an annual income below $23,492, which is $64 a day. Extreme poverty is defined as that family of four having an annual income less than half of the poverty level, which is $11,746 a year, or $32 a day for the average family of four.
But things are really worse than that. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, a family of four needs an income of about twice the poverty threshold to cover basic expenses. More than 42 percent of American children live in families that don’t meet this mark.