Urban Wire Child Poverty for Minorities is Highest in Small, Majority-White Metros
Sara Edelstein
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My last post revealed that in McAllen, Texas, a shocking 47 percent of children live below the poverty line. Unfortunately, the news gets worse when we look at child poverty by race for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, the poverty rate for children overall is 21 percent, which is barely above the national average—but for black children, the rate is 59 percent, or roughly three in five children. Scranton’s rate is actually higher than black child poverty rates in metro areas with much larger black populations, such as Jackson, Mississippi (38 percent). The same is true for Hispanic child poverty rates: they’re usually worse in small, majority-white metro areas that don’t have the worst child poverty overall.

Searching for the 10 areas with the worst black and Hispanic child poverty takes us out of small metro areas in the West, South, and Southwest—where overall child poverty tends to be highest—and into even smaller metro areas in the Northeast and Midwest.

In Scranton, not only is black child poverty highest, but Hispanic child poverty is ranked fourth at 47 percent (see figure 1). Syracuse and Buffalo, New York, are both among the top 10 for black children (50 and 48 percent) and Hispanic children (41 and 43 percent).

What’s striking in these and the other metro areas shown here is the discrepancy between the white child poverty rate and the black or Hispanic rate. Scranton’s black child poverty rate is 43 percentage points higher than its white rate; in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the difference is 44 percentage points, the largest among all 100 metro areas. Milwaukee and Madison also have very high inequality in terms of poverty.

Poverty is worst for Hispanic children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where over half (51 percent) are poor (see figure 2). The white vs. Hispanic poverty gap is largest there and in Springfield and Worcester, Massachusetts. In Worcester, only 7 percent of white children but 41 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty.

Also notable is that the 20 metro areas shown here are majority white, except for McAllen, Texas, where 95 percent of children are Hispanic. And while some of these metros also have very high poverty for white children (McAllen ranks first, Youngstown second, Chattanooga fourth, and Scranton sixth), most do not. Milwaukee; Madison; Springfield; Worcester; and Rochester, New York, don’t even rank in the top 50.

Many areas in the country have profound child poverty, especially among minority children. As our minority populations grow, it is likely child poverty will as well. It’s clear that when we talk about child poverty, we can’t ignore race.

Research Areas Children and youth Child welfare
Tags Poverty Racial and ethnic disparities Economic well-being Kids in context
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population