The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its 2012 Kids Count Data Snapshot last week, focusing attention on children living in America’s high-poverty communities. The Snapshot draws from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey (ACS) to update key indicators in the annually published report, the Kids Count Data Book. The new data were compared to 2000 Census data and show that children today are much more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than they were a decade ago.
Analysis of ACS data shows an increase of 1.6 million children, or approximately 25%, living in high-poverty communities since 2000, after steady declines in the number of children living in high-poverty communities during the years between 1990 and 2000. An estimated 7.9 million children lived in areas of concentrated poverty in 2006-2010. That is 11% of all American children, up from 9% of all children in 2000. The rate is significantly higher among families with incomes below the federal poverty line, where 29% of children, or nearly one in three, live in an area of concentrated poverty. The authors of Kids Count define a “concentrated poverty area” as those census tracts with poverty rates of 30% or more, a critical threshold for discernible negative effects of poverty concentration.
The Snapshot provides state-by-state data and finds that there are pockets of concentrated poverty across the country, but that the problem is particularly acute in certain regions. Children in southern and southwestern states are most likely to live in these disadvantaged areas. The states with the highest rates are Mississippi (23%), New Mexico (20%), and Louisiana (18%). With the exception of just eight states, all states saw an increase in the percentage of children living in concentrated poverty over the last decade. Overall, children living in rural areas (10%) and large cities (22%) are considerably more likely than those in suburbs (4%) to live in a community of concentrated poverty.
The Snapshot also notes that disparities between racial groups across various measures of child well-being are large, though the size of the gap varied by indicator. In general, the study indicates that African-American children are the most vulnerable.
To address the needs highlighted by its data analysis, the Snapshot outlines a number of approaches to fostering better places to raise children. Suggestions include increasing access to affordable housing in opportunity-rich communities, encouraging public-private partnerships, and leveraging “anchor institutions” to strengthen existing community programs.
Annie E. Casey also updated the Kids Count Data Center, an online version of the Data Book, which offers a suite of materials, including the raw data used in the analysis and a user-friendly database that allows users to generate customized lists, graphs and maps based on hundreds of measures of child well-being at the national, state, county, and city level.
According to information from the Data Center, an estimated 5.3 million children, or 4%, have experienced foreclosure-related upheaval since 2007. Other troubling housing indicators searchable in the Kids Count Data Center showed that in 2010, 14% of all children lived in crowded housing and 67% of low income children lived in housing cost burdened households (paying more than 30% of monthly income towards housing costs), suggesting that two-thirds of children in low income households may be at risk of homelessness.
The 2012 Kids Count Data Snapshot, along with the full 2011 Kids Count Data Book, can be found in the Kids Count Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org.