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New report focuses on kids in high-poverty communities

Something has happened to Nebraska kids in the past decade, and it isn’t good.

Poverty just keeps growing. Those who check in with our work know we talk about poverty a lot. We cite statistics like, “18.2 percent of Nebraska kids lived in poverty in 2010.” We say, that’s almost 1 out of 5 kids. It was 1 out of 7 in 2009.

A new Data Snapshot from the national KIDS COUNT project, released today, gave us a new and startling look at poverty among Nebraska kids.

The Snapshot looked at kids living in communities with a high concentration of poverty. The report defines areas of high poverty as “those census tracts with poverty rates of 30 percent or more because it is a commonly used threshold that lies between the starting point and leveling off point for negative neighborhood effects.”

Negative neighborhood effects? The report reveals that a family living in a high-poverty neighborhood – no matter the family’s income – is more likely to struggle to meet their children’s basic needs. Specifically, families in high-poverty communities are more likely to face:

  • Food hardship
  • Difficulty paying for housing
  • Lack of health insurance

Kids themselves are more likely to be stressed out and display more severe behavioral and emotional problems than kids who live in better-off communities. They’re more likely to have low test scores in school, drop out, or fail to succeed economically as adults.

So, how many Nebraska kids are we talking about here?

27,000. That was the average number of kids living in such neighborhoods across the years 2006-2010. Keep in mind that average includes pre-recession years, when poverty rates were lower.

What’s staggering isn’t just that number – 27,000. It’s how much that number has increased in the past decade. In 2000, the stat was 12,000. That means we’ve experienced a 125-percent increase in children living in high-poverty communities in the past decade alone.

This trend, which strikes both urban and rural areas, has to stop. If we as adults wish to see the “Good Life” outlast us, we must give our kids the means to build their own prosperity now.

What solutions do you see? How do we help kids and families rise out of poverty?

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Data Snapshot on High-Poverty Communities” can be viewed here

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