Structuring Poverty: How Racism Shapes Child Poverty and Child and Adolescent Health

Nia Heard-Garris*, Rhea Boyd, Kristin Kan, Leishla Perez-Cardona, Nevin J. Heard, Tiffani J. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Black, Native, and Latinx populations represent the racial and ethnic groups most impacted by poverty. This unequal distribution of poverty must be understood as a consequence of policy decisions—some that have sanctioned violence and others that have created norms—that continue to shape who has access to power, resources, rights, and protections. In this review, we draw on scholarship from multiple disciplines, including pediatrics, public health, environmental health, epidemiology, social and biomedical science, law, policy, and urban planning to explore the central question—What is the relationship between structural racism, poverty, and pediatric health? We discuss historic and present-day events that are critical to the understanding of poverty in the context of American racism and pediatric health. We challenge conventional paradigms that treat racialized poverty as an inherent part of American society. We put forth a conceptual framework to illustrate how white supremacy and American capitalism drive structural racism and shape the racial distribution of resources and power where children and adolescents live, learn, and play, ultimately contributing to pediatric health inequities. Finally, we offer antipoverty strategies grounded in antiracist practices that contend with the compounding, generational impact of racism and poverty on heath to improve child, adolescent, and family health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S108-S116
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • capitalism
  • pediatric health
  • poverty
  • structural racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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