Concentrated Childhood Poverty Rates Rose in Ten States, Puerto Rico

Concentrated Childhood Poverty Rates Rose in Ten States, Puerto Rico

Despite a decade of modest but steady economic growth since the Great Recession, the share of children living in concentrated poverty has risen over the past decade in ten states and Puerto Rico, a data brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.

The report, Children Living in High-Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods, a KIDS COUNT data snapshot, found that while the total number of children living in areas of concentrated poverty (census tracts with poverty rates of at least 30 percent) nationwide fell after the recession, the percentage of children who lived in high-poverty areas between 2013 and 2017 was up from 2008-12 levels in Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico. By contrast, the percentage of children living in concentrated poverty fell in twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia and held steady in eleven states. States in the South and West accounted for seventeen of the twenty-five states with rates of at least 10 percent, while 23 percent of children in urban areas lived in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared with 11 percent in rural areas and 5 percent in suburban areas.

According to the data brief, while the national child poverty rate fell slightly from 13 percent in 2008-12 to 12 percent in 2013-17, racial/ethnic disparities persist — in part because of the continuing effects of discriminatory federal and local policies such as mandated segregation, redlining, and limited access to financial institutions. In 2013-17, 28 percent of African-American and Native American and 19 percent of Latinx children lived in concentrated poverty, compared with 10 percent of multiracial children, 6 percent of Asian-American/Pacific Islander children, and 4 percent of white children.

To revitalize high-poverty communities, the foundation calls on philanthropy, business, and federal, state, and local governments to do more to preserve and develop affordable housing and expand opportunities for low-income families by supporting job training programs, incentivizing hospitals and universities to hire and contract locally and with businesses led by women and people of color, and funding small-business lending and microloan programs in low-income communities.

"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 Casey Foundation president and CEO Lisa Hamilton. "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."

(Photo credit: Annie E. Casey Foundation)