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The Economic Risk of Childhood in America: Estimating the Probability of Poverty across the Formative Years

Mark R. Rank and Thomas A. Hirschl
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 61, No. 4 (Nov., 1999), pp. 1058-1067
DOI: 10.2307/354024
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/354024
Page Count: 10
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The Economic Risk of Childhood in America: Estimating the Probability of Poverty across the Formative Years
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Abstract

This article estimates the proportion of children in the United States who will experience poverty at some point during their childhood. These proportions are derived through a set of life tables built from 25 waves of longitudinal data. They represent a fundamentally different approach to studying poverty than either a cross-sectional or poverty spell methodology. Our data indicate that between the ages of 1 year and 17 years, 34% of American children will spend at least 1 year below the poverty line, 40% will experience poverty at the 125% level, and 18% will face extreme poverty (below 50% of the poverty line). A series of bivariate and multivariate life tables reveal that race, family structure, and parental education all have a sizeable impact on the likelihood of experiencing poverty. During the 17 years of childhood, 69% of Black children, 81% of children in nonmarried households, and 63% of children whose head of household had fewer than 12 years of education will be touched by poverty.

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