24 September 2019 | Economic Security

RELEASE: In Kansas, 51,000 children lack critical supports in areas of concentrated poverty

Sept. 24, 2019

New Annie E. Casey data snapshot with state-by-state information highlights child poverty changes across the nation

TOPEKA, Kansas — More than 50,000 Kansas children live in areas of concentrated poverty, according to “Children Living in High Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods,” a new KIDS COUNT® data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Using the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the snapshot examines changes in concentrated poverty across the country during a long period of national economic expansion.

The number of Kansas kids living in concentrated poverty has dropped 13 percent, from 56,000 (in 2008-12) to 51,000 (in 2013-17). But the numbers also show that our state’s improvement lags 15 other states and the District of Columbia. Our neighbor Colorado, for example, has seen a 44 percent reduction (from 107,000 to 59,000). Arkansas has seen an 18 percent reduction (from 119,000 to 100,000).

“Kansas must do better for kids and families living in high-poverty, low-opportunity areas,” said John Wilson, Kansas Action for Children’s vice president of advocacy and incoming president. “State policies create barriers for those who struggle to get by. Smart changes would allow us to transform lives and reduce the percentage even further.”

Growing up in a community of concentrated poverty – that is, a neighborhood where 30 percent or more of the population is living in poverty – is one of the greatest risks to child development. Alarmingly, more than 8.5 million children live in these settings nationwide. That’s 12 percent of all children in the United States. Children in high-poverty neighborhoods tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality, and toxins such as lead. Financial hardships and fear of violence can cause chronic stress linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And when these children grow up, they are more likely to have lower incomes than children who have relocated away from communities of concentrated poverty.

The concentrated poverty figure, with its focus on neighborhoods, does not include all Kansas kids in need of economic security. According to the latest KIDS COUNT data, 104,000 Kansas children overall lived in poverty as of 2017.

The “Children Living in Concentrated Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods” snapshot also suggests that harsh limits put in place by the Brownback administration are keeping Kansas kids and families from accessing needed work and family supports.

“As KAC team members traveled across the state this summer, we’ve heard the stories,” Wilson said. “Communities understand the toll of poverty on children. If we truly want the next generation to thrive, they need access to high-quality health care, education, and places to live and grow. This next legislative session, we look forward to sharing information with lawmakers about changes we can make.”

Key findings from the snapshot include:

  • Overall, urban areas have both the largest number and share of children living in concentrated poverty: 5.4 million, or 23 percent of all kids in cities. About 11 percent of kids (1.2 million) in rural areas live in poor communities, while 5 percent of suburban kids (2 million) do.
  • States in the South and West tend to have high rates of children living in concentrated poverty, making up 17 of 25 states with rates of 10 percent and above.
  • Black and Native American children are seven times more likely, and Latinx children are nearly five times more likely, to live in poor neighborhoods than white children, largely as a result of legacies of racial and ethnic oppression as well as present-day laws, practices and stereotypes that disproportionately affect people of color.

“We believe that more than 100,000 Kansas kids living in poverty is unacceptable,” Wilson said. “The nearly half of those kids living in concentrated poverty face even higher barriers. The challenge seems immense, but there are immediate and practical solutions to start tackling it.”