Mara Powell

Kentucky’s Child Poverty Rate Remained Steady from 2018 to 2019

Household Pulse Survey Data Show Impact of the Pandemic on Family Housing Stability and Food Access

Louisville, KY – New data released this week by the U.S Census Bureau reveals that 21.7 percent of Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2019, which is not statistically different than the 2018 rate of 23.0 percent. With over one in five children living in poverty, only four states have a higher rate than Kentucky. The American Community Survey data also show that in 2019 the poverty rate for Kentucky children under age 5 was 25.6 percent, demonstrating a disproportionate impact on young children.

“While child poverty rates have remained steady in Kentucky in recent years, we know it is still far too high. And the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to take a toll on families—not only physically and emotionally, but financially as well,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Data collected this summer as part of the Household Pulse Survey shows that the pandemic is impacting many families’ food access and housing stability. An estimated 42 percent of Kentucky children in renter households were behind on rent and/or did not get enough to eat and 20 percent of adults with children in the household reported the children weren’t eating enough because they couldn’t afford enough food.

Additionally, due to historical and ongoing practices that have negatively impacted people of color in housing, employment, and financial services, children of color in Kentucky continue to have higher poverty rates than their White peers. The Census Bureau estimates show that in 2019, 32.2 percent of Black children and 30.3 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty compared to 19.3 percent of non-Hispanic White children.

“Children can thrive when their parents are able to earn a living and meet the basic needs of their family. We must be steadfast in efforts to ensure the families of every Kentucky child can earn enough to put food on the table and provide safe and stable housing, no matter their race or zip code,” continued Dr. Brooks.

Congress has the opportunity to promote equitable recovery efforts as families across the commonwealth cope with the impact of the pandemic. As Congress debates the next COVID-19 relief package, federal leaders must consider the following:

  • Provide a flexible investment of $50 billion in child care funding, which will provide approximately $958 million in child care aid to Kentucky, to stabilize the child care sector and better serve families seeking to return to work.
  • Extend the Pandemic-EBT benefit through the new school year and authorize budget relief for school nutrition programs to ensure children’s access to adequate nutrition as many students continue to stay home for virtual learning.
  • Authorize an additional round of income support payments that is equal for adults and children and that is accessible to households regardless of their immigration status, and allocate funds to programs that are best positioned to immediately help children and families experiencing homelessness and ensure their long-term stability.

“Poverty permeates every aspect of a child’s life: health, academics, and workforce prospects. And the impacts of the pandemic have only exacerbated the challenges families are facing every day. Children can thrive when they grow up in communities with high-quality child care options, abundant job opportunities for their parents, access to nutritious foods and quality health care, and a stable place to call home. Poverty has been pervasive in the Commonwealth, but if our federal leaders can come together on common ground, pragmatic solutions, we will create a brighter, more hopeful future for all Kentucky families,” said Dr. Brooks.


About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at