While National Child Poverty Rate Improves, Kentucky Moving in Wrong Direction

Contact:
Andrea Bennett
502-381-1176
abennett@kyyouth.org

Jeffersontown, KY – New Current Population Survey supplemental data, released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, provides an updated status of kids and families in Kentucky, including new data on poverty. Additional data will be released on Thursday, September 18 from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, which tracks similar measures.

While the national data shows the child poverty rate declined for the first time since 2000, Kentucky’s data is in stark contrast to the nation. Child poverty in Kentucky rose to 31.8 percent in 2013 from 22.4 percent in 2009. This increase put Kentucky at the highest in the nation among states, according to data from this survey. The data coming out on Thursday will show if this trend held true for the American Community Survey, conducted with a larger sample size and different methodology that makes the numbers more reliable. The poverty threshold in 2013 for a family of four with two children means earning a household income below $23,624.

Not only are more children experiencing poverty, but total poverty in Kentucky, including adults, rose from 17.0 percent in 2009 to 20.0 percent in 2013. The newly released data highlights that economic recovery has yet to reach many families in Kentucky, and in fact, even more families are struggling.

“We know that the single most important factor impacting the success or struggles of children is poverty, and we can’t let another year go by without implementing strategies to raise children out of poverty,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates. “Although tackling poverty will require multiple solutions, a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that allows working families to keep more of their hard-earned income can be a first-step solution to move kids out of poverty. Kentucky leaders should embrace and enact a state EITC.”

An EITC is a tax-credit provided to low-income working families to help them make ends meet. Currently, families at a certain income level can apply for the federal EITC when they file their taxes in order to receive a credit on their tax return. Families would apply for a state EITC in the same way that families apply for the federal EITC.

On average, families would receive an additional $220 back on their taxes if Kentucky enacted a state EITC. Parents often spend this money in local economies such as buying clothes for their children, fixing their car, or buying gas to get to work.

“The EITC supports parents who are working but aren’t earning enough to pay for basic needs,” added Brooks. “It’s a small amount of money that could make a big difference in the lives of children and families.”

Other strategies include helping families obtain more resources and implementing policies to help them keep more of the assets they have. Low-income families need alternatives to their current higher costs for financial services and consumer goods. Policy changes can help families save the money they earn.  Another proven strategy is to boost low income families’ entrepreneurial potential through such ideas as microenterprise.  A multi-faceted strategy can lift families out of poverty for the long-term.

“Small and incremental efforts simply will not change this tide of rising poverty for Kentucky’s kids. We have a practical and ethical obligation to tackle this problem with multiple solutions that we know work.  And this new data reminds us that the issue of kids and poverty is a crisis of urgency.  It is simply not a problem that can be put on the backburner. Neither the pressures of the state budget nor the presence of politics is a valid excuse for anything less than immediate action,” added Brooks.

On Thursday, September 18, the Census Bureau will release American Community Survey (ACS) one-year data which contains stronger estimates on poverty, family structure, and health insurance, primarily due to larger sample size and different methodology. Data will be available at the state level and for counties with populations of 65,000 or more. Kentucky Youth Advocates will issue another news release on Thursday highlighting the ACS data.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Andrea Bennett at abennett@kyyouth.org or 502-381-1176.