Kids in Concentrated Poverty Data Snapshot

Posted September 24, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Casey Foundation released "Children Living in High-Poverty, Low-Opportunity Families."

Per­cent­age of kids in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty wors­ens in 10 states and Puer­to Rico

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion today released Chil­dren Liv­ing in High-Pover­ty, Low-Oppor­tu­ni­ty Neigh­bor­hoods,” a KIDS COUNT® data snap­shot that exam­ines where con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty has wors­ened across the coun­try despite a long peri­od of nation­al eco­nom­ic expansion.

Down­load the data snapshot

The report, which ana­lyzes the lat­est U.S. Cen­sus data avail­able, finds that between 20082012 and 20132017, 10 states and Puer­to Rico saw increas­es in the per­cent­age of chil­dren liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty. By con­trast, 29 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia saw decreas­es in the share of chil­dren in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty, and 11 states expe­ri­enced no change.

What is con­cen­trat­ed poverty?

The effects of con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty begin to appear once neigh­bor­hood pover­ty rates rise above 20% and con­tin­ue to grow as the con­cen­tra­tion of pover­ty increas­es up to 40%. Because 30% lies between the start­ing point and lev­el­ing off point for neg­a­tive neigh­bor­hood effects, the fig­ure is often used to define con­cen­trat­ed poverty.”

Con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty and child development

Grow­ing up in a com­mu­ni­ty of con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty — that is, a neigh­bor­hood where 30 per­cent or more of the pop­u­la­tion is liv­ing in pover­ty — is one of the great­est risks to child devel­op­ment. Alarm­ing­ly, more than 8.5 mil­lion chil­dren live in these set­tings. That’s near­ly 12 per­cent of all chil­dren in the Unit­ed States.

Chil­dren in high-pover­ty neigh­bor­hoods tend to lack access to healthy food and qual­i­ty med­ical care and they often face greater expo­sure to envi­ron­men­tal haz­ards, such as poor air qual­i­ty, and tox­ins such as lead. Finan­cial hard­ships and fear of vio­lence can cause chron­ic stress linked to dia­betes, heart dis­ease and stroke. And when these chil­dren grow up, they are more like­ly to have low­er incomes than chil­dren who have relo­cat­ed away from com­mu­ni­ties of con­cen­trat­ed poverty.

We all know that chil­dren thrive when they grow up in neigh­bor­hoods with high-qual­i­ty schools, abun­dant job oppor­tu­ni­ties, reli­able trans­porta­tion and safe places for recre­ation, yet across the coun­try, mil­lions of our kids are liv­ing in pover­ty,” said Lisa Hamil­ton, the Casey Foundation’s pres­i­dent and CEO. Fol­low­ing such a long peri­od of nation­al eco­nom­ic growth, we should see wide­spread pover­ty reduc­tion for more com­mu­ni­ties. It is imper­a­tive that we imple­ment poli­cies to revi­tal­ize the chil­dren and fam­i­lies that remain left behind.”

Con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty and race

The data report out­lines solu­tions to address con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty and chal­lenges lead­ers to con­front issues such as the far-reach­ing effects of racial inequities and inequal­i­ty. African Amer­i­can and Amer­i­can Indi­an chil­dren are sev­en times more like­ly to live in poor neigh­bor­hoods than white chil­dren and Lati­no chil­dren are near­ly five times more like­ly, large­ly as a result of lega­cies of racial and eth­nic oppres­sion as well as present-day laws, prac­tices and stereo­types that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect peo­ple of col­or. Even rel­a­tive­ly wealthy states like Texas and New York have a large share of chil­dren of col­or liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed poverty.

Percentage of children living in concentrated poverty by race from 2013–2017

State data on con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty and children

Addi­tion­al key find­ings in the report include:

  • Ten states and Puer­to Rico saw the per­cent­age of chil­dren liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty increase: Alas­ka, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Nebras­ka, New Hamp­shire, New Jer­sey, New Mex­i­co, Penn­syl­va­nia and West Virginia.
  • Eleven states saw no progress: Alaba­ma, Ken­tucky, Mary­land, Mon­tana, New York, Ore­gon, Rhode Island, South Dako­ta, Vir­ginia, Ver­mont and Wis­con­sin. The oth­er 29 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia saw decreases.
  • Half of the total num­ber of Lati­no chil­dren liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty in Amer­i­ca are in just two states: Texas and California.
  • Half or more of Native Amer­i­can kids in Ari­zona, New Mex­i­co, North Dako­ta and South Dako­ta are liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty. Ari­zona alone is home to more than a quar­ter of all Amer­i­can Indi­an chil­dren liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty (56,000 chil­dren, 28 per­cent of the nation­al total).
  • In Michi­gan, half of the state’s African Amer­i­can chil­dren live in high-pover­ty neigh­bor­hoods; the fig­ure is 40 per­cent or high­er in Louisiana, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia, Wis­con­sin and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

Areas of con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty in America

States in the South and West tend to have high rates of chil­dren liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty, mak­ing up 17 of 25 states with rates of 10% and above.

Over­all, urban areas have both the largest num­ber and share of chil­dren liv­ing in con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty: 5.4 mil­lion, or 23% of all kids in cities. About 11% of kids (1.2 mil­lion) in rur­al areas live in poor com­mu­ni­ties, while 5% of sub­ur­ban kids (2 mil­lion) do.

Solu­tions to child pover­ty in America

Solu­tions to uplift these com­mu­ni­ties are not far out of reach, and they would have sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive effects both for chil­dren and youth and for our coun­try as a whole,” said Scot Spencer, asso­ciate direc­tor of advo­ca­cy and influ­ence at the Casey Foun­da­tion. Strong neigh­bor­hoods fos­ter sta­ble fam­i­lies and healthy children.”

The Casey Foun­da­tion urges lead­ers — from the nation­al and state lev­el to coun­ties, cities and oth­er local set­tings — to act now to help fam­i­lies lift them­selves out of these cir­cum­stances. Poli­cies at the com­mu­ni­ty, coun­ty and state lev­els that can have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the lives of chil­dren in strug­gling fam­i­lies include:

  • Sup­port­ing devel­op­ment and prop­er­ty-own­er­ship mod­els that pre­serve afford­able hous­ing, such as com­mu­ni­ty land trusts and lim­it­ed-equi­ty cooperatives.
  • End­ing hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion based on whether a per­son was for­mer­ly incar­cer­at­ed or is using a fed­er­al hous­ing voucher.
  • Assist­ing low-income res­i­dents in pay­ing high­er prop­er­ty tax­es that often come with new development/​redevelopment or with a family’s relo­ca­tion to a more afflu­ent area.
  • Expand­ing work­force train­ing that is tar­get­ed to high-pover­ty, low-oppor­tu­ni­ty communities.
  • Requir­ing and incen­tiviz­ing anchor insti­tu­tions to hire local­ly and con­tract with busi­ness­es owned by women and peo­ple of color.
  • Devel­op­ing and fund­ing small-busi­ness loan pro­grams that serve entre­pre­neurs in low-income neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or — or peo­ple that tra­di­tion­al lenders tend to reject, such as indi­vid­u­als with poor cred­it or crim­i­nal records.

Read or down­load the data snapshot

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