Yesterday we learned that anti-poverty programs lifted 8 million children out of poverty in 2013, which lowered the child poverty rate to 16.4 percent.

These findings come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s release of the 2013 Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which takes into account non-cash benefits (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and housing assistance) as well as household expenses like childcare, child support, and medical out-of-pocket expenses.

The SPM data reports that when taking into account benefits and expenses not included in the official poverty measure, 2.9 million children are lifted out of poverty. When you include cash income and benefits also included in the official poverty measure (including Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), this number increases to 8 million children.

Refundable tax credits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) continue to have the largest effect in reducing child poverty. The chart below illustrates the number of children lifted by out of poverty by individual programs:

Program Children Lifted Out of Poverty
Refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit and refundable part of Child Tax Credit) 4.7 million
SNAP 2.1 million
Housing subsidies 1 million
School lunch 800,000
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 370,000
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 300,000


Note: It is important to remember that the SPM also takes into account household expenses such as taxes and childcare, so you cannot use these figures alone to determine how many children were actually living in poverty after the impact of these programs.

While programs such as the refundable tax credits and SNAP is significant, but no initiative has had a larger effect on reducing poverty in America than Social Security, which prevented 23.4 million seniors from falling into poverty in 2013.

These programs are critical for millions of children, but we know we can do better. Even taking into account their impact, 16.4 percent of kids are living in poverty. Infants born into poverty are more likely to experience negative health outcomes such as low birth weight and increased rates of chronic disease. Children living in poverty have increased exposure to toxic stress and there is increasing evidence that this creates a significant health burden in adulthood, as well as poor academic achievement and lower rates of high school graduation.

First Focus has many ideas for how we can reduce child poverty and improve well-being for our nation’s children, which not only include protecting what works but also initiatives and policies that would improve opportunity Please see here for more information:

  1. SNAP and SNAP-Ed: America’s Best Defense on Childhood Hunger – by Meghan Mack
  1. EITC Reform – Good for Children and Families? – by Ralph Forsht
  1. Child Poverty and Homelessness Affect Education – by Kevin Lindsey
  1. Investing in a Youth Workforce – by Elliot Gluck
  1. Child and Youth Homelessness: A Problem of Epic Proportions – by Cara Baldari