Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2013 American Community Survey results. This day, every year, always creates a buzz for data users and child advocates due to the release of the most up-to-date data on basic population.
One of the most important pieces of the American Community Survey is the number of people living below the poverty line. As most know, economic stability is a huge part of our work at Voices for Children and a section in our annual Kids Count in Nebraska Report. Today’s report was overall good news for Nebraska’s kids with a small drop in the number of children living in poverty. In 2013, an estimated 17.7% or 80,653 kids in Nebraska, enough to fill Memorial Stadium, were living below the poverty line. This is a decrease from 17.9% in 2012, but still higher than the 15.2% seen in 2009. We must remember to tell the whole story, and most times that story cannot be told without digging deeper in to the data and looking at groups that are particularly vulnerable to poverty. While we can be excited about the decrease, no matter how small, further investigation shows us that not every group did experience a decrease in child poverty. When looking at the 3 largest race/ethnic groups in Nebraska (the only groups with a population big enough to achieve statistical reliability for the one year estimates) we find that only white non-Hispanic kids actually had a decrease in poverty. The percentage of kids who are black or African American and kids who are Hispanic and living in poverty both increased. The percentage of our youngest Nebraska children living in poverty also increased in the last year.
While the new overall data shows that we are moving in the right direction on child poverty and that is good news, the numbers are still significantly higher than they were five years ago and high risk groups are experiencing increasing poverty. Too many Nebraska families are still living on the brink and struggling to provide for their children. The economy in Nebraska has remained strong but there are still significant obstacles to economic stability for many working families. Hard work should pay, and one thing we can do in the immediate future is vote in November to increase the minimum wage to bolster our working families and the economy.