02 October 2023 | Economic Security Health Education Early Learning Tax and Budget

Data Shows Pandemic-era Supports Drove Down Child Poverty, Food Insecurity among Kansas Kid

October 2, 2023
Contact: Jessica Herrera Russell

TOPEKA, KAN. — Poverty and food insecurity rates among Kansas children dropped significantly in the early years of the pandemic, according to the 2023 Kansas KIDS COUNT® Data Book, which analyzes child outcomes in economic well-being, education, and health indicators. The Data Book was created by Kansas Action for Children, which collected state and county data from national and state sources.  

Kansas children living below the poverty line (or a household income of less than $26,500/year for a family of four) decreased from 101,000 children in 2019 to 92,000 children in 2021. And kids experiencing food insecurity (or not having enough to eat for every meal) decreased even more significantly from around 120,000 kids in 2019 to about 94,000 in 2021.  

These improvements correlate to early pandemic-era supports targeting kids and families, such as increased food assistance benefits, no-cost school meals for all children, the temporarily expanded federal child tax credit, and other measures that helped relieve financial burdens for families living on low- or middle-incomes.  

Additionally, more Kansas kids became enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), reaching a combined peak across the last decade of nearly 300,000 children accessing some type of coverage through KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. This number is in stark contrast to a combined total of about 271,000 kids enrolled in 2019.  

Due to the public health emergency, KanCare enrollees did not have to submit paperwork with the state to determine continuing eligibility, and enrollees were able to keep their coverage for prolonged periods. However, with the public health emergency ending in May 2023, those redeterminations are underway, and thousands of kids are losing coverage. 

“The data is clear that measures implemented during the early years of the pandemic helped families make ends meet,” said John Wilson, President and CEO of Kansas Action for Children. “But with those programs having ended, advocates are concerned with the data trends we are likely to see in 2022 and beyond.” 

He continued, “We can build on the success of pandemic-era programs by ensuring families can achieve financial security. Expanding Medicaid, implementing a state child tax credit, breaking down barriers to food assistance, and raising the minimum wage are all solutions to make that a reality.” 

Other notable data shifts highlighted in the report include: 

  • Income statuses of families in Kansas have been on a constant incline since 2011, but there are still large discrepancies between racial groups. For instance, Asian American/Pacific Islander households made around $102,100 in 2021, while American Indian/Alaskan Native households were at $32,400. 
  • Fewer young children were enrolled in early learning programs. From 2019-2021, about 54% of Kansas 3- and 4-year-olds weren’t in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten. This is about a 2-point increase from 2017-2019.  
  • Basic reading and math proficiency continued to trend downward in the last decade, following trends across the country. Reading proficiency has dropped about 10 percentage points since 2015 (80% vs. 70% in 2021). Math proficiency decreased even more significantly, seeing 8th graders drop from 71% in 2019 to 61% in 2022 and 4th graders drop from 79% to 75% across the same period. 
  • Low birth weights are statistically much higher among Black newborns compared to every other racial/ethnic group. In 2021, around 7% of all Kansas newborns were born at less than 5.5 pounds, but Black babies were twice the state average at 14%. 
  • Racial disparities were also present in infant mortality rates. While the overall state rate is 5.9 infant deaths per 1,000, around 16.5 Black infants per 1,000 died in 2021.  
  • Children without health coverage stayed steady at around 5%. With KanCare redeterminations currently occurring, this number could increase in future years. 

About the Data Book 

The 2023 Kansas KIDS COUNT® Data Book is the state’s extension of the national KIDS COUNT® Data Book produced by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of The Annie E. Casey Foundation and is used with permission of the Foundation.  

The digital version of the 2023 Kansas KIDS COUNT® Data Book can be found at www.kac.org/2023_data_book.