2010 Data Show Surge in Poor Young Families

By:  Sabrina Tavernise

WASHINGTON - More than one in three young families with children were living in poverty last year, according to an analysis of census data by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

At 37 percent, it was the highest level on record for the group, surpassing the previous peak of 36 percent in 1993, according to the analysis by Ishwar Khatiwada, an economist at the center. By comparison, the rate was about 25 percent in 2000.

The economic distress among the country's youngest families - defined as under the age of 30 - is in contrast to the poverty rate for elderly families, which remained low in 2010, at 5.7 percent, according to the analysis. In the 1970s, poverty was only slightly higher for younger families than for families headed by someone age 65 or over.

The change is evidence of shifting policy priorities that are putting the next generation at risk at a time when competition in the labor market has never been tougher, said Andrew Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern and the director of the center.

"Young families with children are now six times as likely to be poor as elderly families," Professor Sum said. "This is a major generational change. From a public policy standpoint, we should be very deeply troubled by this."

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