The future prosperity of the Commonwealth depends on our ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation. Wise investments in children and families today will be paid back by upcoming generations through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. A new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Kentucky’s kids are in need of such investments. The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reveals that 13 percent of Kentucky’s children are growing up in areas where at least 30 percent of the residents live below the federal poverty level (about $22,000 a year for a family of four), up from 11 percent in 2000.
Research shows that the undesirable outcomes and diminished opportunities associated with neighborhood poverty are amplified when the area poverty rate rises above 20 percent. High-poverty communities often lack access to resources that are critical to healthy growth and development, including quality education, medical care and safe outdoor spaces.
“The impact of growing up in these high-poverty communities is not simply about dollars. It is really about opportunities or the lack thereof. These highly impoverished environments create health and developmental challenges for children throughout their lives – including making it more difficult for them to succeed in school and increasing the likelihood for future financial hardship as adults,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “If we want a more prosperous Kentucky in the future, then the work must begin now. And the most immediate work is creating better opportunities for our children through better economics for families.”
Across the country, 11 percent of children live in communities with high poverty rates, and almost all states experienced an increase in the number of children in high poverty communities since 2000. Tennessee’s rate of 13 percent mirrors Kentucky’s rate, but Kentucky’s other neighbors have lower rates, including Illinois (10 percent), Indiana (8 percent), Missouri (9 percent), Ohio (12 percent), Virginia (4 percent) and West Virginia (8 percent).
The snapshot includes information for children living in communities with high poverty for the 50 largest cities in the United States. Louisville is in the middle of the group with 21 percent of children living in high-poverty communities. The rate is similar across Louisville’s peer cities: Indianapolis, IN (19 percent); Nashville, TN (22 percent); and Columbus, OH (26 percent).
The snapshot also outlines several approaches to help make high-poverty communities better places to raise children and help families secure jobs and services. One proven practice is to integrate the delivery of education, employment training, work supports, financial coaching and asset building services, as this has shown to contribute to higher rates of economic success and stability. Enacting a state, refundable Earned Income Tax Credit is another proven method to help families close the gap between what they earn and what it takes to make ends meet.
The Data Snapshot and the related data for states and the 50 largest cities will be available to the public beginning Feb. 23 at 12:01 a.m. at the KIDS COUNT Data Center.Media can request an embargoed copy of the Data Snapshot from Kentucky Youth Advocates.