In Milwaukee radio interview, Biden says Black child poverty was cut in half. Is he right? – Fond du Lac Reporter

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President Joe Biden speaks at the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday December 20, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Speaking to Black voters in Wisconsin, Biden repeated his claim that Black child poverty was cut in half in 2021.
  • PolitiFact checked that claim in 2023, and found supplemental poverty numbers backed up his claim.
  • Experts have linked that drop to an expansion in child tax credits, which Biden has said he is trying to bring back.

A day before Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Milwaukee, President Joe Biden aimed to speak directly to Black voters in a pre-taped radio interview with Milwaukee’s 101.7 “The Truth,” aired May 15, 2024.

Host Sherwin Hughes asked Biden what the administration has done for him and other Black Wisconsinites. Biden cited lowering prescription costs, investing in small businesses and sending stimulus checks.

“We got through the toughest time in history,” Biden said, referring to the pandemic. “Black child poverty was cut in half in 2021.”

Biden’s interview with the radio station, which focuses on Milwaukee’s Black community, shows the campaign is trying to directly reach the crucial group of voters.

The campaign also recently met with Black voters in southeastern Wisconsin to discuss the stakes of the election. Turnout has decreased in Milwaukee’s wards where a majority of voters are Black.

When Biden gave remarks in Milwaukee in December, he made a similar claim about cutting Black child poverty in half. That drew the most applause of his speech, indicating it’s a topic that resonates with voters. 

PolitiFact already checked this claim in 2023, but since it’s being repeated in Wisconsin, here’s a recap of what we found. 

Black child poverty fell from 17.2% in 2020 to 8.3% in 2021, according to a supplemental measure

When PolitiFact emailed the White House for Biden’s data source, a spokesperson pointed to supplemental poverty numbers from the Census Bureau. 

By those numbers, The White House said, Black child poverty fell from 17.2% in 2020 to 8.3% in 2021. 

That amounts to a 52% drop — what the White House described as “the largest reduction in history” that achieved “by far the lowest rate in history.” 

The drop from 2019, it said, was 60%.

While the supplemental poverty measure is not the official one, specialists prefer it because it includes additional factors, like taxes and necessary medical expenses and benefits from government programs. 

The official poverty measure is based on cash resources. 

Using the official poverty measure, overall child poverty dropped 0.7 percentage points from 16% to 15.3%, the bureau said.

Drop linked to Biden’s expansion of child tax credit, which he wants to bring back

So, Black child poverty did drop during the pandemic. But can Biden take credit for it?

Biden’s American Rescue Plan increased the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,600 for children younger than 6 and to $3,000 for children 6 to 17. 

Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia argued the expansion would worsen inflation. 

When the expanded credit expired, child poverty spiked, Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy reported. 

In February, the center said, supplemental child poverty rose from 12.1% in December 2021 to 17% in January 2022 — a 41% change. This meant 3.7 million more children were living below the poverty line.

Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont predicted in 2021 that expanding the child tax credit could halve U.S. child poverty. 

Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison public policy professor who has since retired, said the expanded child tax credit worked as forecast.

“This is exactly what should be expected,”  Smeeding said, adding that the supplemental measure is the best way to measure poverty and mark how much it shrank when the credit expanded.

At his speech in Milwaukee in December, Biden said he would continue to pursue an extension to pandemic-era child tax credits. 

“I’ve tried to extend it, and every single Republican in Congress voted against continuing the program. But I’m not giving up until we get it back,” he said.

Our ruling

In an interview with Milwaukee’s 101.7 “The Truth,” Biden said “Black child poverty was cut in half in 2021.”

In 2023, PolitiFact rated that claim Mostly True. 

Biden’s statement needed clarification because he used the supplemental poverty measure, which is preferred among experts. There’s another, official measure that shows less of a reduction. 

And experts have linked that drop to Biden’s expansion of child tax credits, which he has told Wisconsin voters he would keep trying to bring back. 


101.7 The Truth, It’s Getting Real Presidential, May 15, 2024.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Here are 6 takeaways from Biden’s visit to Milwaukee and what it means for 2024, Dec. 20, 2023. 

PolitiFact, Biden says expanded child tax credit sharply cut poverty for Black children; data shows he’s right, March 22, 2023.

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