Pandemic policy changes reduced poverty and uninsured rates across the country and in Colorado, newly released Census Bureau data reveals
The nation’s child poverty rate was cut nearly in half and fell to a record low in 2021 after accounting for the impact of public benefits, according to data released earlier this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 5% of U.S. children experienced poverty as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure, down from 9.7% in 2020. This sharp decrease is especially notable given that it occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread economic turmoil.
Temporary improvements to the Child Tax Credit enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan drove most of the decline. These improvements included increasing the amount of the tax credit, making it fully refundable, and removing the minimum income requirement to receive the credit – ensuring families with the lowest incomes could benefit. The newly released data show the expanded CTC lifted nearly 3 million U.S. children out of poverty in 2021. Despite the remarkable success of the CTC expansion at decreasing poverty among children during a global health and economic crisis, Congress allowed the expansion to expire at the end of 2021, meaning millions more children will experience poverty in 2022.
The Census Bureau also released new poverty data calculated using the official poverty measure, which does not consider the impact of non-cash public benefits. Using this measure, the nation’s child poverty rate was 17% in 2021. Colorado’s child poverty rate, as calculated using the official measure, remained relatively unchanged between 2019 and 2021, at 12%.
Policy choices also drove declines in the uninsured rate among children in Colorado and across the U.S. In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Congress enacted a policy that barred states from unenrolling anyone from Medicaid and CHIP in exchange for increased federal funds. The data released earlier this week suggest that this policy change kept millions of U.S. kids insured throughout the pandemic and helped drive down the nation’s uninsured rate among kids to 5%. Colorado’s uninsured rate also fell from 5.5% in 2019 to 4.6% in 2021, a decline of 12,000 kids.
These data show that we can effect meaningful change in the lives of kids and families when we prioritize their needs in public policy decisions—but much of the progress made in 2021 is at risk due to inaction in Congress. Join First Focus and other child advocates on Thursday, Sept. 22 at noon MT to call on Congress to extend the temporary improvements to the Child Tax Credit, and stay tuned to KidsFlash for more opportunities to make your voice heard for kids and families.