6.1 Million Latino Kids in Poverty, US Record

A Latina child smiles.
A young Latina girl. (Image credit: Tracy Whiteside, Shutterstock)

More than 6 million Latino children in the United States now live in poverty, according to a new report. It's the first time in U.S. history that the single-largest group of poor children hasn't been white.

The trend is driven by the growing number of Hispanics in the country, as well as a high birth rate among immigrants and declining economic fortunes, according to a Pew Research Center report released today (Sept. 28). The unemployment rate among Latinos was 11.1 percent in 2010, compared with 9.1 percent for the nation as a whole.

However, while 6.1 million Latino kids in poverty is a record-breaking number, the rate of childhood poverty is highest for blacks, the new report finds. The rate of poverty for black children is 39.1 percent. In comparison, 35 percent of Latino kids live in poverty, as do 12.4 percent of white children.

The overall poverty rate in the U.S. in 2010 was 15.1 percent, with 22 percent of American children living below the poverty line. That overall rate is the highest since 1993, the Census Bureau recently reported.

Between 2007 and 2010 — the years bracketing the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 — childhood poverty rates rose across the board. But no group was hit harder than Latino kids. Childhood poverty rose 17.6 percent for whites and 11.7 percent for blacks. For Latinos, that increase was 36.3 percent.

Among Latino kids, 57.3 percent of those living in single-mother households are in poverty. Children in families with at least one unemployed parent also had a high poverty rate of 43.5 percent. In comparison, Latino children in families with a college-educated parent had only an 8.7 percent chance of being poor. 

High birth rates among Hispanic immigrants helps drive the childhood poverty trend, the Pew Research Center found. Hispanics make up 16.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to Census data, but comprise 23.1 percent of the nation's children. Of the 6.1 million Latino children in poverty, 4.1 million are the children of immigrant parents. More than 86 percent of those 4.1 million children were born in the United States.

 You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.