Uneven Recovery Leaving Working Poor Families Behind, Report Finds

Uneven Recovery Leaving Working Poor Families Behind, Report Finds

The uneven economic recovery has left more low-income families struggling to make ends meet and more children living in low-income working families, an annual report from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation finds.

According to the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book (56 pages, PDF), one in four children in the United States, or 18.7 million children, lived in a working poor family in 2013 — about 1.7 million more than in 2008. Moreover, nearly a third (31 percent) of all children had no parent with full-time employment, and even when parents were working full time, their wages and benefits often were insufficient to adequately support a family. The report, which measured child well-being in four areas — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community — also found that the child poverty rate of 22 percent remained persistently high in 2013 and was well above the 2008 rate of 18 percent, and that 14 percent of children lived in high-poverty communities where poverty rates were above 30 percent, the largest percentage since 1990.

The report, which focuses on key trends in child well-being in the post-recession years, also found that African-American children were the most likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods (32 percent) and to live in single-parent families (67 percent). In the area of education, the report found that the percentage of high school students who did not graduate on time fell to 19 percent in the 2011-12 academic year, down from 25 percent in 2007-08; that almost a third (32 percent) of African Americans and Native Americans did not graduate on time; and that Latino children were the most likely to live with a head of household without a high school diploma (35 percent). In the area of health, Native American children were the most likely to lack health insurance (16 percent), while African American children had the highest rates of low birth weight (12.8 percent) and child and teen deaths (33 per 100,000).

At the state level, Minnesota ranked first overall in child well-being in 2013, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Vermont, while Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mississippi ranked lowest. The most significant improvements in overall rankings compared to the 2014 Data Book were seen in Alaska, Minnesota, Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri.

"The national averages belie the stark reality that millions of children, particularly African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians live on the precipice of poverty," said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy. "Today, as the economy recovers, we see a widening gap between the living standards of many children of color and other kids."