Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual data on poverty and health insurance. This annual release of single-year data follows the release of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book, both highlighting key indicators of child well-being. Because we know that what gets measured gets changed, below are key data takeaways from the Census Bureau’s release.
The data reveals that 22.1% of Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2021, which is not significantly different from 21.7% in 2019. With over one in five Kentucky kids living in poverty, only 5 states have a higher rate than Kentucky.
While these numbers are grim, there are several safety net programs that have made a significant impact on families living in poverty. This includes the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as the expansion of existing government benefits such as the Child Tax Credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.
These results came out the same week as Child Trends’ new report showing a 59% decline in childhood poverty nationally over the last quarter century – and a 66% decline in Kentucky. This report found that 44% of the decline in childhood poverty was because of the safety net programs mentioned above.
Beyond poverty, the American Community Survey looked at a number of other factors impacting Kentucky kids and families, such as the health insurance rate, high rental cost burden, and broadband access.
In terms of health insurance, the overall uninsured rate in Kentucky in 2021 was 5.7% and 4.0% of Kentucky kids under 19 were uninsured. This number is not significantly different from the uninsurance rate in 2018 and 2019.
Almost 47% of Kentucky renters had a high rental cost burden, meaning they pay over 30% of their income on rent and utilities. Kentucky has made significant investments in broadband expansion in the past couple of years, yet gaps remain with 87.1% of households having access to broadband.
Because of historical and ongoing barriers to housing, employment, and other services, Kentuckians of color are disproportionately impacted by both poverty and high rental costs. The Census Bureau estimates that in 2021, 36% of Black children and 31% of Latinx children lived in poverty, compared to 20% of White children.
These new data provide important insight into the poverty and health insurance levels in Kentucky and the impact of safety net programs. We can use this data to develop tangible solutions to support Kentucky kids and families by protecting and improving these critical programs.