1.7 Million More Children Live in Low-Income Working Families Today Than in Midst of Great Recession

Posted July 21, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Newsrelease millionsmorekidsliveinlowincomefamilies 2015

Down­load the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book

About 1.7 mil­lion more chil­dren live in low-income work­ing fam­i­lies today than dur­ing the Great Reces­sion, accord­ing to the new­ly released 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foun­da­tion. In 2013, one in four chil­dren, 18.7 mil­lion, lived in a low-income work­ing fam­i­ly in the Unit­ed States. Near­ly a third of chil­dren are liv­ing in fam­i­lies where no par­ent has full-time employ­ment. And even when par­ents are work­ing full time, wages and ben­e­fits are often not suf­fi­cient to ade­quate­ly sup­port a family.

The 2015 Data Book, which focus­es on key trends in child well-being in the post-reces­sion years, mea­sures child well-being in four domains: eco­nom­ic well-being, edu­ca­tion, health, and fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty. The Casey Foun­da­tion report finds that the ris­ing tide of recov­ery, with both increased employ­ment and more con­cen­trat­ed wealth, has left stag­nant pock­ets of low-income, strug­gling com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies, where a child’s future is anchored in scarci­ty and hardship.

Although we are sev­er­al years past the end of the reces­sion, mil­lions of fam­i­lies still have not ben­e­fit­ed from the eco­nom­ic recov­ery,” said Patrick McCarthy, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Casey Foun­da­tion. While we’ve seen an increase in employ­ment in recent years, many of these jobs are low-wage and can­not sup­port even basic fam­i­ly expens­es. Far too many fam­i­lies are still strug­gling to pro­vide for the day-to-day needs of their chil­dren, notably for the16 mil­lion kids who are liv­ing in pover­ty. We can and must do bet­ter: we can make pol­i­cy choic­es to lift more fam­i­lies into eco­nom­ic stability.”

Nation­al and State Rank­ings for 2015 Data Book

For the first time in a near­ly a decade, a non-New Eng­land state ranks num­ber one for over­all child well-being. Min­neso­ta holds the top spot, fol­lowed by New Hamp­shire, Mass­a­chu­setts, Iowa, and Ver­mont. Ari­zona, Neva­da, Louisiana, New Mex­i­co and Mis­sis­sip­pi rank low­est. Oth­er state highlights:

  • While three New Eng­land states rank with­in the top five for over­all well-being among the 50 states, the top five states in the area of eco­nom­ic well-being are in the heart­land and Plain States regions — North Dako­ta, Wyoming, Nebras­ka, Iowa and Minnesota.
  • The biggest improve­ments in over­all rank­ings com­pared to last year’s Data Book are seen in Alas­ka, Min­neso­ta, Wyoming, South Car­oli­na and Mis­souri. The biggest drops in over­all rank­ings are seen in West Vir­ginia, Indi­ana, Rhode Island, Vir­ginia, Arkansas and Vermont. 
  • South­east, South­west and Appalachi­an states have the low­est income and are at the bot­tom of the over­all rank­ings. With the excep­tion of Cal­i­for­nia, the 15 low­est-ranked states were in these regions. 

Pover­ty is Per­sis­tent in Many Neighborhoods

Despite being sev­er­al years into the eco­nom­ic recov­ery, one in five chil­dren remains strand­ed in poverty. 

  • Since 2008, the num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in pover­ty has risen by almost 3 mil­lion, from 13.2 mil­lion to 16.1 mil­lion today. 
  • At a rate of 22% in 2013, the rate of child pover­ty is still sev­er­al per­cent­age points high­er than before the reces­sion, when it was 18%. 

The num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in high-pover­ty neigh­bor­hoods – where pover­ty rates are more than 30% — is the high­est since 1990:

  • Today, one in sev­en chil­dren — 14% — live in high-pover­ty communities. 
  • More than two mil­lion more chil­dren live in areas of con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty today than in 20062010.

Recov­ery Side­steps Chil­dren of Color

Race is one of the strongest fac­tors influ­enc­ing a child’s eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty. Data show the eco­nom­ic recov­ery of the past sev­er­al years has bypassed many chil­dren of col­or. Rates of unem­ploy­ment at the close of 2014 were in sin­gle dig­its for all races except African Amer­i­cans. African Amer­i­cans were also the only group for whom unem­ploy­ment remains high­er than before the recession. 

  • African-Amer­i­can chil­dren are twice as like­ly as the aver­age child to live in high-pover­ty neigh­bor­hoods and to live in sin­gle-par­ent families.
  • Amer­i­can Indi­an chil­dren are twice as like­ly to lack health insur­ance coverage.
  • Lati­no chil­dren are the most like­ly to live with a house­hold head who lacks a high school diploma.

The nation­al aver­ages belie the stark real­i­ty that mil­lions of chil­dren, par­tic­u­lar­ly African Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, and Amer­i­can Indi­ans live on the precipice of pover­ty. Today, as the econ­o­my recov­ers, we see a widen­ing gap between the liv­ing stan­dards of many chil­dren of col­or and oth­er kids,” said Lau­ra Speer, asso­ciate direc­tor for pol­i­cy reform and advo­ca­cy. The good news is when we’ve invest­ed in the right strate­gies and poli­cies, we have made a dif­fer­ence for kids.

Solu­tions that Pro­vide Oppor­tu­ni­ty for All Children

Nation­al and state lev­el poli­cies have proved that invest­ments in health and edu­ca­tion can cre­ate last­ing pos­i­tive dif­fer­ences for chil­dren. The Children’s Health Insur­ance Pro­gram (CHIP), which pro­vides low-cost health cov­er­age to chil­dren, was imple­ment­ed 15 years ago and has dras­ti­cal­ly reduced the num­ber of chil­dren with­out health insur­ance. In addi­tion, tax cred­its and food stamps have helped to lift peo­ple out of pover­ty; how­ev­er even with these resources, mil­lions of low-income fam­i­lies still strug­gle with basic pro­vi­sion­ing for their children.

The Casey Foun­da­tion offers a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions to make good on the Amer­i­can promise of oppor­tu­ni­ty for all chil­dren. The Foun­da­tion pro­motes a two-gen­er­a­tion strat­e­gy that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly address­es the needs of chil­dren direct­ly while pro­vid­ing tools and resources to their par­ents. Three crit­i­cal strate­gies include:

  • Pro­vide par­ents with mul­ti­ple path­ways to get fam­i­ly-sup­port­ing jobs and achieve finan­cial stability. 
  • Ensure access to high-qual­i­ty ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion and enrich­ing ele­men­tary school experiences. 
  • Equip par­ents to bet­ter sup­port their chil­dren social­ly and emo­tion­al­ly and to advo­cate for their kids’ education.

The Casey Foun­da­tion rec­om­mends poli­cies that pro­mote high­er pay, paid sick leave, flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing and expand­ed unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits that will result in high­er fam­i­ly income, reduced parental stress and an increased capac­i­ty of par­ents to invest in their kids. Detailed rec­om­men­da­tions can be found in the 2014 report, Cre­at­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ty for Fam­i­lies: A Two-Gen­er­a­tion Approach.

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