Poor for How Long? Chronic Versus Transient Child Poverty in the United States


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Poverty is often examined using cross-sectional data, with families categorized as poor by comparing annual income to an annual poverty threshold amount. This approach to conceptualizing poverty does not capture information about the persistence of poverty across multiple years. However, both theory and empirical research suggest that long-term or chronic poverty has different causes and impacts than short-term or transient poverty, particularly for children. This chapter examines poverty persistence among children in the United States. It begins by describing theoretical frameworks from economics and social epidemiology that provide useful lenses for understanding the differences between chronic poverty and transient poverty among children and families. The chapter provides an overview of empirical research on the different impacts of chronic and transient poverty on children’s health and development. Recent data on the prevalence and demographics of chronic and transient child poverty in the United States are then presented. The chapter concludes with suggestions for policy approaches that might address child and family poverty more effectively by specifically targeting chronic versus transient poverty.

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