Louisville, KY – New data released today by the U.S Census Bureau reveals that 23.0 percent of Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2018, which is not statistically different than the 2017 rate of 22.4 percent. Only six states have higher child poverty rates than Kentucky.
“While the child poverty rate has improved since the end of the Great Recession, we must keep making progress until the families of all one million Kentucky children can earn enough to put food on the table and provide safe and stable housing,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “We know that children thrive when their parents can earn a living and meet the basic needs of their family. We must be steadfast in efforts to end poverty for all Kentucky children, no matter their race or zip code.”
Due to historical and ongoing practices that have negatively impacted people of color in housing, employment, and financial services, Kentucky children of color continue to have higher poverty rates than their White peers. The Census Bureau estimates show that in 2018, 41.8 percent of Black children and 33.1 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty compared to 20.2 percent of non-Hispanic White children.
“There are proven ways to fight poverty and to make an immediate difference for all families across the Commonwealth. A strong Kentucky economy depends on a strong workforce, and parents can actively contribute to the workforce when they have access to safe and affordable child care, housing, job training, and other basic needs to provide for their family,” said Dr. Brooks.
Opportunities to help working Kentucky families abound. Congress can take the final steps to increase funding for child care assistance to allow more parents to access high-quality, affordable care while they work. State leaders can curb predatory lending practices to prevent families living paycheck to paycheck from falling into the debt trap of payday lenders. Leaders can also take the next steps in tax reform by making a real effort to enact a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit, which has a proven track record as a temporary support that shows gains to local economies, increased workforce participation of adults, and lifting children out of poverty.
Also released this week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® data snapshot, “Children Living in High-Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods,” examines where concentrated poverty (census tracts with overall poverty rates of 30 percent of more) has changed over time across states and its impact on children. In Kentucky, 16 percent of children live in an area of high poverty, which affects children’s opportunities for success regardless of their own family’s poverty status. Due to oppressive and discriminatory policies and practices, Black and Hispanic children are not only more likely to live in poverty, but also to live in a neighborhood with high concentrations of poverty. In Kentucky, 33 percent of Black children and 21 percent of Hispanic children live in high-poverty areas, compared to 14 percent of non-Hispanic White children.
“The specific effects of living in poverty, or in a high-poverty area, look different in urban versus rural areas, but the common consequence is that it limits children’s chances to grow into successful adults. Poverty permeates every aspect of a child’s life: health, academics, and workforce prospects. Children thrive when they grow up in communities with high-quality child care and education, abundant job opportunities for their parents, access to healthy foods and quality health care, and safe places to play. Poverty does not need to be endemic in the Commonwealth, if leaders can come together on common ground, pragmatic solutions that can create brighter, more hopeful futures for all Kentucky families,” said Dr. Brooks.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.