Why Are Children Poor?

Victor R. Fuchs

NBER Working Paper No. 1984
Issued in July 1986
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Data from the 1960, 1970, and 1980 Censuses of Population and the

Current Population Surveys of 1980 and 1985 are used to describe and analyze

the economic position of children with special emphasis on cross-section

differences and variation over time in the incidence of poverty. Between

1959 and 1979 the income available to children tended to follow the same

pattern as adult income, but between 1979 and 1984 the trends for children

were very unfavorable. Poverty rose, average income fell, and income

inequality increased. Contrary to popular belief, the increase in femaleheaded

households played only a small part in the growth of poverty among

children since 1979. Income available to children fell because households

with children are highly dependent on labor income- -which fell for all age

groups. The elderly (65+), who derive 75 percent of their income from

nonlabor sources (e.g., social security, private pensions, interest), were

the only age group to experience gains in real per capita income during

1979-84. The conclusions about trends in the money income available to

children and adults are relatively unchanged when estimates of the value of

nonmarket production and in-kind government social welfare programs are

added to money income.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1984

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