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D.C. has one of the highest child poverty rates in the U.S., report says

About one in four District children live in poverty, above the national average

Aerial view of D.C.
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Thirty-two thousand children in the nation’s capital live below the federal poverty line, one of the highest child poverty rates in the U.S. when considered among states, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Baltimore.

That’s roughly 26 percent of the under-18 population in D.C., compared with a national child poverty rate of 18 percent as of 2017. That year, the U.S. Census Bureau defined a household of two adults and two children as living in poverty if their annual income was under $24,858. More than 13.3 million children across the country were living below the poverty line in 2017.

Although D.C.’s child poverty rate declined four percentage points since 2010, it was virtually unchanged from the rate in 1990, the year the foundation started publishing its annual “Kids Count Data Book,” which tracks child well-being using various indicators. In a statement, the executive director of DC Action for Children—a local nonprofit that receives funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation—said the data underscores the need to ensure equal opportunity.

“During a time of unprecedented prosperity in the District,” noted Shana Bartley, “we must recognize that its distribution remains unequal and think about the most effective strategies to invest in our future.” D.C. also sees the following issues, per a release from the foundation:

“39 percent of children live in households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Only California and New York have higher percentages. When families must spend significant portions of their incomes on housing, it leaves their budgets pinched for other household necessities like food, health, out-of-school time, transportation and other important expenses.

71 percent of D.C. fourth-graders scored below proficient on national reading assessments. Reading proficiency in the early grades is linked to future success and high school graduation.

42 percent of children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. This is higher than the national figure of 27 percent. Parents’ consistent employment with livable wages is essential for a family’s economic security.”

Additionally, 51 percent of District children lived in single-parent households in 2017, versus a national average of 34 percent. The rate was greater only in Puerto Rico (62 percent). 2017 was the last year for which data were available for most indicators the foundation examined.

You can dive into the report’s other findings about D.C. and the country in the tables below.

Economic well-being indicators
Annie E. Casey Foundation/DC Action for Children
Education indicators
Annie E. Casey Foundation/DC Action for Children
Health indicators
Annie E. Casey Foundation/DC Action for Children
Family and community indicators
Annie E. Casey Foundation/DC Action for Children