According to official estimates, between 2003 and 2012, the share of rural children living in poor families rose from 20.1 percent to 26.7 percent, its highest level since at least 1968. According to ERS research, 35 percent of this increase in rural child poverty was due to declining average family income, 24 percent stemmed from demographically driven changes in the distribution of income, and the remaining 41 percent of the increase may be attributed to other changes in the distribution of income—namely, faster-than-average income declines for families near the poverty line—that cannot be explained by demographic shifts, and that occurred despite rising educational attainment. Between 2012 and 2014, average real incomes for urban and rural families with children grew by about 6 percent, approximately returning to their 2003 levels. This income growth has reduced poverty, but the rise in income inequality since 2003 has not been reversed, and this growing inequality has limited the extent of poverty reduction in both urban and rural counties. As a result, urban and rural child poverty rates remain 3 to 4 percentage points above their 2003 levels.


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