Data from the 1960, 1970, and 1980 Censuses of Population and the
Current Population Surveys of 1980 and 1985 are used to describe and analyze
the economic position of children with special emphasis on cross-section
differences and variation over time in the incidence of poverty. Between
1959 and 1979 the income available to children tended to follow the same
pattern as adult income, but between 1979 and 1984 the trends for children
were very unfavorable. Poverty rose, average income fell, and income
inequality increased. Contrary to popular belief, the increase in femaleheaded
households played only a small part in the growth of poverty among
children since 1979. Income available to children fell because households
with children are highly dependent on labor income- -which fell for all age
groups. The elderly (65+), who derive 75 percent of their income from
nonlabor sources (e.g., social security, private pensions, interest), were
the only age group to experience gains in real per capita income during
1979-84. The conclusions about trends in the money income available to
children and adults are relatively unchanged when estimates of the value of
nonmarket production and in-kind government social welfare programs are
added to money income.
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