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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, 2018

Children living with Children
under 18*
Percent below
the poverty level
Percent of all children receiving
Food stamps Public assistance
All Types 73,741 18% 17% 3%
Two parents 50,953 10% 9% 1%
  Married 47,946 8% 8% 1%
  Unmarried 3,007 39% 28% 3%
Single parent 19,646 34% 35% 7%
  Mother only 16,395 38% 38% 8%
  Father only 3,251 17% 17% 2%
Neither parent** 3,141 44% 25% 7%

* 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 2018, 10% of children living with two parents lived below the poverty level compared to 34% of children living with a single parent.
  • Children living with only their mothers in 2018 were twice as likely to live in poverty than those living with only their fathers (38% vs. 17%).
  • Overall, about 3% of children in 2018 lived in households receiving public assistance and 17% 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=2018. Released on June 24, 2019.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2017. Table C-8: "Poverty Status, Food Stamp Receipt, and Public Assistance for Children Under 18 Years." [Internet release date: November 2018]. Web-based data files available at: https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2018/demo/families/cps-2018.html.