A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that the number of American children in poverty has increased 18 percent since 2000.
In discussions about the recession, unemployment and homelessness, it’s not uncommon to exclude children, but one report is showing that, in all situations, the lives of youth are affected in addition to adults.
The report, Promoting Opportunity for the Next Generation, was released by the Annie E Casey Foundation on Wednesday. It found that poverty was 18 percent higher in 2010 than it was in 2000, and that eight million children had at least one unemployed parent in 2010. Additionally, 14.7 million children, or 20 percent of all children, were poor in 2009, a 2.5 million increase from 2000.
“It is critical that we as a nation ensure that all children have the opportunity to become productive members of society. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to experience health and behavioral problems, face difficulty in school, become teen parents, and earn less or be unemployed as adults. Such factors are barriers to future economic success and stability,” the report says.
African-Americans fared the worst in many categories. Black babies are much more likely to be born with a low birthweight than other racial groups and the most likely (83 per 100,000), in addition to American Indians (87 per 100,000) and Alaskan Natives (33 per 100,000), to have the highest child death rates.
Some factors contributing to the increased poverty rates nationwide included teenage pregnancy. In 2008 there were 434,758 babies born to 15 to 19 year old teenagers and, of those numbers, African-Americans had the second highest teen birth rate (63 percent), compared to Hispanics who had the highest teen birth rate (78 percent), and whites (26 percent).
Another poverty-contributing factor was the increase in teens who were not in school and did not have a job. In 2009, about 1.6 million teens between 16 and 19 were neither enrolled in school or working. This is 149,000 more youth than in 2008.
Partial employment or unemployment also contributed to the poverty numbers. In 2009, 23.1 million children in the U.S. lived in families where no parent had a full-time, year-round job. Specific to Blacks and American Indians, nearly one of every two children lived in a home where the parent did not have secure employment, compared to one out of every four non-Hispanic and Asian children.
The report offers six strategies to help move low-income families onto the pathways of prosperity, as follows:
1) Strengthen and modernize unemployment insurance and promote foreclosure prevention and remediation efforts.
2) Preserve and strengthen existing programs that supplement poverty-level wages, offset the high cost of child care, or provide health insurance coverage for parents and children.
3) Help families gain financial knowledge and skills.
4) Promote responsible parenthood and ensure that mothers-to-be receive prenatal care.
5) Ensure that children are developmentally ready to succeed in school.
6) Promote reading proficiency by the end of third grade.
Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked the lowest on child well-being measures that included child poverty rates and the percentage of kids living in single-parent families.
States that ranked highest for child well-being were New Hampshire, Minnesota and Massachusetts.
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(Photo: Jessica McGowan/MCT/Landov)