Childhood Poverty Among Hispanics Sets Record, Leads Nation

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By Mark Hugo Lopez, Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center, and Gabriel Velasco, Research Analyst, Pew Hispanic Center

The spread of poverty across the United States that began at the onset of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and accelerated last year hit one fast-growing demographic group especially hard: Latino children.

More Latino children are living in poverty—6.1 million in 2010—than children of any other racial or ethnic group. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the single largest group of poor children is not white. In 2010, 37.3% of poor children were Latino, 30.5% were white and 26.6% were black.

This negative milestone for Hispanics is a product of their growing numbers, high birth rates and declining economic fortunes. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hispanics today make up a record 16.3% of the total U.S. population. But they comprise an even larger share—23.1%—of the nation’s children, a disparity driven mainly by high birth rates among Hispanic immigrants.

Of the 6.1 million Latino children living in poverty, more than two-thirds (4.1 million) are the children of immigrant parents. The other 2 million are the children of parents born in the U.S. Among the 4.1 million impoverished Latino children of immigrants, the vast majority (86.2%) were born in the U.S.

The Great Recession, which began in 2007 and officially ended in 2009, had a large impact on the Latino community. At its beginning, the unemployment rate among Latino workers increased rapidly, especially among immigrant workers. Today, the unemployment rate among Latinos, at 11.1%, is higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.1%. Household wealth among Latinos declined more sharply than either black or white households between 2005 and 2009. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity among Latino households increased sharply at the start of the Great Recession. In 2008, nearly a third (32.1%) of Latino households with children faced food insecurity, up from 23.8% in 2007.

Prior to the Great Recession, more white children lived in poverty than Hispanic children. However, since 2007, that pattern has reversed. Between 2007 and 2010, an additional 1.6 million Hispanic children lived in poverty, an increase of 36.3%. By contrast, even though the number of white and black children living in poverty also grew, their numbers grew more slowly—up 17.6% and 11.7% respectively.

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