Infants and Toddlers:

Dramatic Increases in Numbers Living in Poverty

HEHS-94-74: Published: Apr 7, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the potential expansion of the Head Start Program to include infants and toddlers, focusing on the: (1) demographic and economic characteristics of infants and toddlers as shown in the 1980 and 1990 decennial census; and (2) eligibility criteria of major early childhood programs and the percentage of the infant and toddler population they serve.

GAO found that: (1) the number of poor infants and toddlers increased 26 percent during the 1980s and the highest poverty rates occurred in cities and rural areas; (2) in 1990, 20 percent of infants and toddlers lived in poverty compared to 9 percent of prime-aged adults and 13 percent of the elderly; (3) the South and Southwest had the highest poverty rates for infants and toddlers in 1990; (4) at least 35 percent of all infants and toddlers were eligible for Child Care and Development Block Grant services; (5) minorities were over-represented among poor and near-poor infants and toddlers in 1990; (6) poor and near-poor infants and toddlers were more likely than nonpoor children to be immigrants and live in households with non-English speaking, single, or unemployed parents; (7) during the 1980s, the numbers of poor and near-poor infants and toddlers living in minority, immigrant, non-English speaking, unemployed, undereducated, and single-parent families increased significantly; (8) federal early childhood programs generally serve only a small percentage of disadvantaged infants and toddlers because of eligibility restrictions, prioritizing, budget constraints, the lack of adequate outreach, and logistical problems; and (9) the increase in the programs' target populations and their demonstrated benefits warrant consideration of their expansion.

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