The Role of Government Transfers in the Child Poverty Gap by Race and Ethnicity

A focus on Black, Latino, and White children
Jiwan Lee,
Sophie Collyer,
Neeraj Kaushal,
Christopher Wimer,
Published: 04.17.2024 Updated: 04.17.2024

Despite advances in the battle against child poverty in recent decades, there has been little improvement in reducing disparities in child poverty by race and ethnicity. Black and Latino children continue to be more than twice as likely as White children to live in poverty. 

In a collaboration between and the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, this brief provides insights into the impact of government assistance on shaping racial and ethnic inequities in child poverty, and it introduces new findings on the Latino-White child poverty gap. We analyze new data from 2022, revealing that the Black-White child poverty gap remains largely unchanged compared to the pre-pandemic period, with government transfers showing limited effectiveness in closing this gap. We find a similar pattern applies to the Latino-White child poverty gap, but in fact, government transfers seem to exacerbate this gap rather than alleviate it or leave it unchanged.

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Key Findings

  • In 2022, government transfers and tax credits reduced child poverty rates across all racial and ethnic groups, but they did not narrow the Black-White child poverty gap and they actually exacerbated the Latino-White child poverty gap.
  • In-kind transfers disproportionately benefit Black children, while cash-based programs disproportionately benefit White children. Latino children benefit the least from both kinds of transfers.
  • Latino children benefit the least from both kinds of transfers. Research shows that this is in part due to restrictive eligibility requirements that exclude children in mixed-status immigrant families.
Headshot of Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Director, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
Headshot of Pamela Joshi
Pamela Joshi
Policy Research Director
Headshot of Abigail Walters
Abigail N. Walters
Research Associate