A new Child Trends report sheds light on what it terms “disconnected families”: poor families who have no members in the labor force and who don’t receive TANF benefits. (TANF, which stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, provides short-term cash benefits and other forms of aid to poor families.) According to data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, three in ten poor children live in such families—and given their presumably very low levels of income, they likely face a grave risk of the negative outcomes linked to poverty.
Half of disconnected families are headed by two parents (married or unmarried), the Child Trends researchers find, and half the parents have less than a high-school education. Half of the kids are Hispanic, versus one-quarter of all U.S. kids. One-quarter are white, and one-fifth black.
Although disconnected families by definition do not receive TANF benefits, most have access to some kind of government aid. Nine in ten children in disconnected families have health insurance through Medicaid or their state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, and three-quarters receive free or reduced-price meals at school, the report documents. Seven in ten disconnected families receive SNAP (food stamps). While disconnected families are bound to be very poor, these and other government programs do quite a bit to reduce child poverty rates in the U.S.
Indeed, a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report explains that government interventions such as tax credits, SNAP, and housing subsidies cut the national rate of child poverty (as defined by the Census’ Supplemental Poverty Measure) almost in half. Without government interventions, a third of children would live in poverty; with them, the number drops to 18 percent. That’s a major drop—but it still leaves almost one in five children poor.