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Child poverty: Not just about income

Last month, the Brookings Institution released a two-part report, “Five evils: Multidimensional poverty and race in America,” examining the intersection of race, place, and poverty across the country. Looking beyond household income, the report identifies other measures of poverty—lack of employment, limited education, lack of health insurance, and living in a distressed and high poverty community. The second part of the report focuses on evidence that the experience of one or more of these disadvantages presents geographic trends, with strong clustering in metropolitan areas, as well as significant disparities by race and ethnicity, particularly among black and Hispanic Americans.

Overall scores from this year's Index of Race & Opportunity

Overall scores from this year’s Index of Race & Opportunity

Today, over 16% of all Nebraska kids are living in poverty, and that number goes as high as 52% in Loup County. This report rightly indicates that discussions about poverty are often narrowly focused on income, when there are other ways in which children and families experience barriers to opportunity on a daily basis. The report focuses on adults and metropolitan areas, but confirms our findings in the commentary for this year’s Kids Count in Nebraska Report, the Index of Race & Opportunity.

Our index includes 13 indicators of child well-being that all offer some insight into future opportunity, and found that children of color, especially black, American Indian, and Hispanic children, had the greatest obstacles to a bright and healthy future.

Using this expansive definition, science and research tells us that poverty can have a devastating effect on cognition and mental health. Every day, many Nebraska families are navigating the stress of medical bills turning into a financial crisis, or living in an impoverished neighborhood that lacks positive and safe activities for youth to engage in. The erosion of protective factors alongside the heightening of risk factors tells us that the odds are often stacked impossibly against some children from birth, continuing the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

As Nebraska’s population undergoes a significant demographic shift to become more diverse, we invite you to join us and the many other organizations and changemakers who are dedicated to ensuring that all of Nebraska’s children have the best possible start in life.

Consider joining us in our fight now by scheduling a donation to Voices for Children through Omaha Gives!

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