Native American child poverty more than doubled in 2022 after safety net cutbacks: Child poverty rate is higher than before the pandemic

This November, the U.S. observes National Native American Heritage Month. This commemoration celebrates the sovereignty, contributions, and resilience of tribal nations and Native people in the face of a violent, painful, and ongoing history. The enduring effects of colonialism, genocide, and state-sanctioned theft and violence continue to shape the socioeconomic outcomes of Native people. Today, the Native American community makes up a diverse and growing share of the U.S. population, with children accounting for more than one-quarter of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population.

Poverty increased sharply for AIAN children in 2022, as policymakers allowed key economic relief measures to expire that helped families absorb the shock of the pandemic. Native American children have historically been painfully exposed to economic vulnerability. Structural inequities in the labor market and the broader economy continue to limit the earnings of AIAN families and leave workers in this community unfairly exposed to job losses.

Native Americans represent a diverse and growing share of the U.S. population

About 9.7 million people make up the AIAN population in the United States. This figure increased from 5.2 million in 2010, with growth across all major groups during the last decade in part because more Americans identify as multiracial/multiethnic. But even this is an underestimate, as the U.S. Census Bureau has acknowledged similar undercount rates for AIAN populations on reservations in 2010 and 2020.

Between 2010 and 2020, the Alaska Native alone population increased by 10.9% and the Alaska Native (alone or in any combination) population surged by 45.6%. Similarly, the American Indian alone population increased by 11.6%, while the alone or in any combination population almost doubled during this period. The growth of the Latin American Indian (alone or in any combination) population was even stronger. The differences in growth between AIAN populations that identify as AIAN alone, versus alone or in any combination, reflect the need to observe Native communities holistically. This is particularly true when broad population and economic statistics fail to account for the unique experience and rich diversity that characterize the Native American community.

The vitality of the U.S. Native American community is also reflected in its youth. Children under age 5, and those between the ages of 5 and 17, make up a larger share of the total AIAN population than children in the non-Hispanic white population (see Figure A). Overall, children account for more than one-quarter of the total AIAN population, compared with less than one-fifth of the non-Hispanic white population. The general youth of the Native American community means that its economic welfare cannot be separated from the well-being of AIAN children.

Children make up a large share of the total American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population: Child population as a share of total population by race and ethnicity, 2022

 

AIAN alone or in combination with one or more other races White alone, not Hispanic or Latino
Share < 5 years old 6.6% 4.4%
Share 5-17 years old 20.6% 13.4%
Share < 18 years old 27.3% 17.9%
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