More Children Living in High Poverty Areas, Report Finds

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February 2012; Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation

A new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation indicates that the chance that a child in the United States will live in an area of concentrated poverty has significantly increased over the last decade. Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT data profiles the well-being of children and youth across the nation. Reports are designed to provide user-friendly state and county data, helping decision-makers, nonprofits and other advocates understand the challenges and opportunities facing children and youth.

According to the foundation’s KIDS COUNT February Data Snapshot, close to 8 million children are growing up in communities where at least 30 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level. In 2000, the number of children living in high poverty communities was 6.3 million, meaning 1.6 million more children are now living in these high-poverty areas, a 25 percent increase since 2000.

The report emphasizes the serious impact that living in a high-poverty environment can have on the well-being of children. In comparison to children with the same family income who live in more affluent neighborhoods, children from communities that are economically disadvantaged are disproportionately more likely to drop out of school, have difficulties with coursework, suffer from food hardships, and to experience poor health and behavioral issues.

Regions in the South and Southwest had the largest proportion of children living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. States with the highest rates include Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona. Only eight states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia experienced declines over this period.

Additionally, the report highlighted that not all children are equally likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty. This report found that African American, American Indian, and Latino children are six to nine times more likely than white children to reside in these neighborhoods.

According to Michael Karpman from the National League of Cities, despite severe pressures on municipal finances in the wake of recession, cities are continuing efforts to reduce concentrated poverty and to help families become economically self-sufficient. Karpman notes that cities play a central role in local, neighborhood-based initiatives that replicate innovative poverty reduction strategies such as those developed by the Harlem Children’s Zone, even when federal Promise Neighborhood funding has not been granted.

According to 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.” –Saras Chung