Just under 423,000 Ohio children lived in poverty in 2020, representing a child poverty rate of 16.8 percent, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Center for Community Solutions (CCS) said Ohio's 2020 child poverty rate was the lowest figure since the 2000 decennial census, which reported the share of children who lived in poverty in 1999.
The data comes from the Census Bureau's 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Experimental Data. In an analysis of that data, CCS writes that ACS 1-year estimates always carry some amount of uncertainty, but explains that COVID-19 disrupted data collection in 2020 in ways which may have undercounted low-income households.
"The Census Bureau made statistical adjustments, released only a limited set of data which met their stringent standards, and took extra time for the analysis. They also advise against comparing the 2020 Experimental Data with previous years. Therefore, we are not able to determine if changes are statistically significant. Even with the challenges, the 2020 experimental ACS data remain the best estimates of income and poverty in Ohio and across the country, and a drop in child poverty is consistent with other sources of information," CCS said.
While 2020 also saw record unemployment levels and remote school for many children, CCS said it appears the federal government's financial aid to the public helped families. The available ACS data does not allow for the examination of the reasons for the decline in child poverty, but other models have found that government intervention during the pandemic blunted the toll of economic disruption, CCS noted. The ACS relies on household income to calculate poverty status, which in 2020 would have included Economic Impact Payments, otherwise known as stimulus payments, and any additional unemployment compensation for parents.
The two rounds of stimulus payments in 2020 moved 3.2 million American children out of poverty, CCS said, and the actual benefits of the government's actions could be much larger because some other interventions, such as tax credits, help families make ends meet but are noncash, so they are excluded from these poverty calculations.
Among adults, the experimental estimate from 2020 showed a poverty rate of 12.4 percent for working-age Ohio adults between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the same as the 2019 ACS estimate. The poverty rate for older adults appears to be slightly higher than in 2019, but the change is small. Even if these data could be compared directly, none of the differences would be statistically significant, CCS said.
"Time will tell if the promising drop in child poverty is an anomaly or the beginning of a trend. Continued emergency food assistance and improvements in the Child Tax Credit certainly helped families in 2021 but have either ended or are expected to end this year. Unfortunately, policy decisions must move faster than data collection and analysis of their real-world impact. The 2020 child poverty estimates provide an indication of the positive impact timely and targeted government action can have on breaking cycles of poverty," the center said.