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Number of Children Living Amid Poverty Has Surged This Decade: Study

Common Dreams staff

Nearly 8 million children in the United States were living in high-poverty areas in 2010—about 1.6 million more than there were just ten years ago—according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization whose primary mission is to foster public policies that help meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.

Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), the KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot  shows that about 7.9 million children (roughly 11% of the population) are growing up in areas where at least "30% of residents live below the federal poverty level—about $22,000 per year for a family of four." Those numbers are up from 2000, when data showed 6.3 million kids (9% of the poulation) were living in economically depressed communities, which "often lack access to resources that are critical to healthy growth and development, including quality education, medical care and safe outdoor spaces."

“Kids in these high-poverty areas are at risk for health and developmental challenges in almost every aspect of their lives, from education to their chances for economic success as adults,” said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and data at the Casey Foundation. “Transforming disadvantaged communities into better places to raise children is vital to ensuring the next generation and their families realize their potential.”

And Speer, speaking with The Nation's Greg Kaufmann, said she finds the new data “particularly disturbing” because the long-term trends have taken such a turn for the worse.

“Poverty is re-concentrating,” Speer told The Nation. “There’s more segregation in terms of income in the US and this can have really bad impacts for kids.”

“Part of what we want to reinforce is the concept that children don’t grow up in isolation,” said Speer. “They are affected by both their family’s resources and also very much impacted by the community in which they live. The community is critically important because it really does for many kids equate to the opportunities that they have access to.”

And Reuters adds:

The growth, a 25 per cent increase, reverses the trend just a decade ago that saw fewer children living in communities with high poverty rates, according to the non-profit group.

And three-quarters of those children live in such areas despite having at least one parent working, the study showed.

The findings reflect the hit the U.S. economy took during and after the 2007-2009 recession even as signs now point to recovery.

According to the ACS, almost all states saw the number of children in high-poverty neighborhoods climb. States with the highest rates were Mississippi (23 percent), New Mexico (20 percent), Louisiana (18 percent), Texas (17 percent) and Arizona (16 percent). Although the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico saw their rates decline over the same period, they continue to have higher rates—32 and 83 percent, respectively—than any state in the country.

The data also highlight the children most likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty. These include youth in the south and southwest, as well as those in urban and rural areas. African-American, American Indian and Latino children are six to nine times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than their white counterparts.


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