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2017 Kids Count Report States One in Four La. Kids Growing Up Poor by Della Hasselle

July 2, 2017


2017 Kids Count Report States One in Four La. Kids Growing Up Poor
By Della Hasselle

child poverty

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Louisiana Weekly

( - For children everywhere in the United States, poverty can create formidable obstacles to success.

But that statement is especially true in Louisiana, where more than one in four kids is growing up poor, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

That’s one of the many findings recently reported in the Foundation’s 2017 Kids Count report, which ranked every state in the country using a combination of education, economic, health and community indicators. The national study, released in June, found that the Pelican State fell behind only Mississippi and New Mexico when considering all factors of child well-being.

Although the report found children suffered from inadequate education and health risks, experts suggested poverty was one of the most common and problematic threats to child development.

The foundation also found that the number of children living in poverty in Louisiana remained more or less unchanged since 2010.

Currently, about 313,000 children — or 28 percent overall — live with families who have incomes below the federal poverty line.

In 2010, about 27 percent of children were living in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center.

The state fared worse than the national average. Throughout the United States, about 21 percent, or roughly 15 million children, lived in poverty in 2015. That ratio had dropped nationally since 2010, when 22 percent of the nation’s kids were found to be poor.

Anthony Recasner, the CEO of the New Orleans-based Agenda for Children, the agency that acts as the state’s Kids Count coordinator, called for Louisiana to pass policies that will help families ”clear pathways out of poverty” for families.

In a release, he asked legislators for “laser-like” focus to bring more “economic opportunity” to those in need.

“Policies that help working families maintain their jobs and get ahead — such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Assistance — are some of the best tools we have to make sure children grow up in economically secure households,” Recasner said. “Louisiana has made some improvements to policies in recent years, but if we really want to move the needle on child poverty, our lawmakers need to significantly increase public investments in these evidence-based programs.”

The poverty levels were exacerbated, the report found, because about 34 percent of the state’s children had parents who lacked secure employment in 2015, compared to 29 percent of kids nationwide. Locally, the state had 380,000 children in that predicament.

A higher number of teens in Louisiana were found to be not in school and not working, too. The number came to 28,000, or 11 percent of all teens, compared to seven percent of teens nationwide.

High poverty levels can often be attributed to family-related issues, and the report found significant contributing factors in Louisiana, especially when comparing families nationwide.

The report found that 473,000 children, or 45 percent of all kids, lived in single-family households in the Pelican State. That’s 10 percentage points lower than the rate nationwide.

And 34 in 1,000 teens gave birth in 2015. Nationwide, 22 teens gave birth that year per 1,000.

Kids in Louisiana also grappled with significant health-related issues in 2015, the report found.

Researchers discovered the state had significantly more child and teen deaths than national average. Louisiana reported 462 deaths per 100,000 children in 2015, or 40 percent, compared to about 19,500 nationwide, or 25 percent.

Birthweight was also an issue, as 10.6 percent of all babies were born underweight in 2015, compared to 8.1 percent nationwide.

The children’s educations were affected, too. A whopping 82 percent of eighth-graders were found to be not proficient in math, compared to 68 percent nationwide. Similarly, 71 percent of the state’s fourth graders were not proficient in reading, compared to 65 percent across the country.

The grades negatively affected graduate rates: nearly one in four teens, or 23 percent, are not graduating high school in time. Nationwide, the statistic is 17 percent.

There were a few bright spots. The report found that 96 percent of Louisiana’s children are insured, which is actually better than the national average of 95 percent of children lacking affordable access to health care.

In Louisiana, 40,000 children are uninsured. Nationally, the number is about 3.5 million.

Researchers also reported that roughly half of the state’s preschoolers are in some kind of school or early care, which puts the state ahead of others when considering early childhood education.

And it appears fewer families exist in Louisiana where the head of the family lacks a high school diploma than in other places around the country. Families also seem to have fewer housing cost burdens than elsewhere.

For nearly three decades, the KIDS COUNT Data Book has provided an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in every state and across the nation.

Nationally, researchers found that the latest trends highlight “notable progress,” but also continued “areas of concern.”

Throughout the country, the report found that parental employment and wages are trending upward, and a record number of children have health insurance.

Teenagers are also more likely to graduate high school and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

But child poverty rates — the biggest issue in Louisiana — remain high, researchers found. The problem is exacerbated by limited options for upward mobility, as more and more families live in neighborhoods with a high concentration of poverty.

Moreover, national data only shows “modest gains” in academic performance, according to the foundation, with “far too many” children falling below grade level in reading and math.

“Even where we see improvements, deep racial and ethnic disparities remain,” the report noted.

Like Recasner, authors encouraged reform on local and national levels.

“Although trends in child well-being are shaped by many forces, it’s indisputable that good public policy makes a tremendous difference,” the report read. “We know that a failure to invest wisely — or to not invest at all — negatively affects children’s opportunities to reach their full potential.”

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