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Living Arrangements
Q: Does the proportion of children living in poverty vary by family structure?
A: Children in single-parent families are more likely to live in poverty.

Poverty status of children by family structure, 2010

Living arrangement Children
under 18*
Percent below
poverty level
Percent of all children receiving
Food stamps Public assistance
All Types 74,718 21% 19% 4%
Two parents 51,823 13% 11% 2%
  Married 49,106 11% 10% 2%
  Unmarried 2,717 46% 31% 7%
Single parent 19,855 40% 38% 9%
  Mother only 17,283 43% 41% 10%
  Father only 2,572 22% 17% 3%
Neither parent** 3,041 43% 26% 10%

* data are in thousands.
** Includes children living with other relatives and those living with non-relatives.
***The Current Population Survey methodology changed to more accurately reflect children’s coresidence with their parents. This change is reflected in the estimates beginning in 2007, where two parent homes include all homes in which a child lives with both parents, married or unmarried (biological, step or adoptive). For more information please read: Improvements to data collection about families in CPS 2007.

  • In 2010, about 1 in 8 (13%) of children living with both parents lived below the poverty level compared to 4 in 10 (40%) of children living with only one parent.
  • Children living with only their mothers in 2010 were nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than those living with only their fathers (43% vs. 22%).
  • Overall, about 4% of children in 2010 lived in households receiving public assistance and 19% lived in households receiving food stamps, but the proportions were far greater for children living in single-mother families.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/population/qa01203.asp?qaDate=2010. Released on April 22, 2011.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2010. Table C-8: "Poverty Status, Food Stamp Receipt, and Public Assistance for Children Under 18 Years." [Internet release date: November 2010]. Web-based data files available at: www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2010.html.