This paper begins by highlighting some key characteristics of the demographic transition and child education and their relation to household poverty status in India as evidenced by our analysis of Census data (1951–2001) and those from NSS surveys in 1993–94 and 2004–05. Although total fertility rates have declined for the country as a whole and for all states over the last three censuses of India there is considerable variation by space, by poverty status and by education of women in the household in the two cross sections. Child poverty rates exceed those for the whole population. The number of children in the household depends on the number of women in child-bearing age and their distribution across this age group, female education and per capita monthly expenditure of households as well as by social groups. We find evidence of gender bias in education and argue that for approximately half of India’s children the Right to Education Act must involve substantial improvements in the quality of education to be meaningful and reflect the spirit of the RTE law.