Poverty, Spatial Inequality, and the Changing Economic Status of Children

  • Lichter, Daniel T. (PI)
  • Eggebeen, David (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Children represent one of the most impoverished groups in America today, with roughly one fifth living in households with income below official poverty guidelines. Less well appreciated is that poverty rates among rural children are even higher. Unfortunately, poverty today is viewed as a fundamentally urban problem, which is reinforced by media attention to a highly visible urban 'underclass' in the nation's cities. Our reliance on national statistics, which are heavily weighted in favor of urban areas, often masks the extent and causes of economic hardship in America's nonmetropolitan and rural areas. Drawing upon a variety of census and survey data, the primary objective of this research is to examine geographic variation or spatial inequality in the economic status of American children over the 1959-88 period. Specifically, this research seeks to identify the primary economic and demographic sources of area-to-area differences in the poverty status of American children. Is the rise in child poverty due to changing family structure and increases in female-headed households? Or, is child poverty located primarily in the deteriorating employment conditions experienced by children's parents? More important, how do these sources of economic hardship and inequality among children vary over time and geographic space? The common view that child poverty is located in changing family structure may be inappropriate for rural areas, where children typically live with both parents. In rural areas, the deteriorating economic status of rural children may instead be rooted primarily in the income-generating abilities of parents, which have been negatively affected during the 1980s by a stagnating rural economy. Clearly, an accurate understanding of spatial disparities in child poverty today requires some sensitivity to the alternatively reinforcing and counterbalancing effects of changing family structure and economic conditions in rural and urban areas.

Effective start/end date6/1/9011/30/92


  • National Science Foundation: $44,961.00


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