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Journal Issue: Children and Poverty Volume 7 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1997

The Dynamics of Childhood Poverty
Mary E. Corcoran Ajay Chaudry

Summary

Child poverty rates have remained high since the middle of the 1970s. While several trends, including declines in the number of children per family and increases in parental years of schooling, worked to reduce child poverty rates, several others, including slow economic growth, widening economic inequality, and increases in the proportion of children living in mother-only families, had the opposite effect, pushing more children into poverty.

Poverty is a common risk: One-third of all children will be poor for at least one year. For many, poverty lasts only a short while, but for a small percentage, poverty persists both throughout childhood and into the adult years.

Poverty is not shared equally across different demographic groups. African-American children, Latino children, and children in mother-only families are disproportionately poor. Long-term poverty is even more concentrated than single-year poverty. In 1992, almost 90% of long-term poor children were African-American as compared to all poor children (single-year and long-term poor), of whom 60% were white.

Both family structure and the labor market are implicated in long-term childhood poverty. Changes in employment of family members and changes in family composition are each strongly associated with transitions into and out of childhood poverty. Of these, changes in employment are the most important.