The U.S. Census Bureau released new state data today on the number of Nebraska children living in poverty and the number of children who lack health insurance. The data show both good news and bad news for Nebraska kids.
Most concerning is new data indicating the number of children without health insurance increased slightly. There were 26,892 kids (5.9%) without health insurance in 2011, an increase from 25,734 (5.6%) in 2010. Access to health insurance for children is critical, as it ensures that issues are identified and treated early and that they are able to fully participate in school. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, has helped to reduce the number of kids without health insurance.
Child poverty in the state has remained largely the same as the previous year. Child poverty has risen significantly in Nebraska since 2000, when the child poverty rate was 10%. In 2011 the child poverty rate was 18.1%, nearly the same as 18.2% in 2010.
Nebraska’s relatively low unemployment rate, coupled with a relatively unchanged child poverty rate, suggests that that many working families are not earning enough to support their children’s needs. Child poverty is associated with a variety of negative consequences for children including lack of adequate nutrition and poor educational attainment.
Further, significant racial disparities in our state’s child poverty rate continued. While 14.4% of white children were in poverty, children of color fared much worse. Among black children, 40.2% lived in poverty. Hispanic children experienced a poverty rate of 36.1%. For American Indian children, it was 45.0%.
When we look at just one year of data at a time, we can see large fluctuations in the numbers. For example, the gap between the 2010 poverty rate for African American children was 52.2% and this year it fell to 40.2%. Part of this change can be due to changes in the sample size. In order to tell a more complete story of what is happening with our child poverty rate, we need to look at averages over the course of a few years. Only then can we really tell if there are truly fewer kids in poverty.