A new report released by the Urban Institute highlights the cumulative effect of childhood poverty on life outcomes. Linking poverty status at birth and the persistence of childhood poverty to outcomes in adulthood by the age of 30, the authors find that those who are born poor and spend half of their childhoods in poverty are significantly more likely to be poor in their early adult years and to experience other negative outcomes when compared to those in higher income families.
The study uses the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a nationally representative longitudinal dataset collected from 1968 to 2005. It is the first to link the persistence of childhood poverty to adult outcomes.
The report finds that while 13% of all children are born poor, 49% of these children will spend nine years or longer—or half of their childhoods—in poverty, which the authors categorize as “persistently poor.” This compares to only 4% of those not poor at birth who will be persistently poor.
The study goes on to examine the circumstances of children from birth through age 30, and finds childhood poverty status is a strong predictor of future poverty status. Those born into poverty were more likely to be poor between the ages of 25 and 30, drop out of high school, experience teen pregnancy, and have a history of unstable employment than those born into non-poor families. Overall, the more years one spends living in poverty, the greater his or her likelihood of having worse adult outcomes.
Within these data on the persistence of childhood poverty lie evidence of significant racial disparities, with black children facing increasing rates of poverty and poverty persistence compared to their white counterparts. The study reports that 40% of black children are born poor, compared to 8% of white children. In addition, black children face higher rates of persistent poverty than white children, with 18% of black children spending three-quarters of their childhood years (14 years or longer) in poverty versus only 2% of white children.
Given the detrimental impacts of childhood poverty, the authors conclude that poor children are an extremely vulnerable group. They suggest that greater resources be targeted at children born into poverty with the aim of improving their adolescent and adult outcomes.
The report, Childhood Poverty Persistence: Facts and Consequences, is available at: http://www.urban.org/ UploadedPDF/412126-child-poverty-persistence.pdf