Report Finds 1 in 5 American Kids Live in Poverty

(CN) – Despite the country’s low unemployment rate, 18% of U.S. children, or 13.4 million, are living in poverty and inequities among black, Latino and Native American youth compared to their white peers have persisted for nearly three decades, according to a new report.

In this June 14, 2019, photo, volunteers pick up food packages to deliver to homebound families and dependent children in Santa Fe, N.M. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

Since 1990, the U.S. child population has increased from 64.2 million to 73.7 million with the most growth in Texas, California and Florida, the Annie E. Casey Foundation said in its annual Kids Count report released Monday.

The report says the population of children in the United States is actually down from a peak of 74.1 million in 2009 when financial difficulties from the Great Recession led many Americans to delay starting or expanding their families.

The foundation said a key takeaway from its report is the “nation’s racial inequities remain deep, systemic and stubbornly persistent,” especially for black and Native American children, despite improvements in the percentage of children whose parents have secure jobs.

The 33% poverty rate for black and Native American kids in 2017 was three times higher than the rate for their white and Asian peers. The report also found that black, Indian and Latino children were being raised by a single parent at much higher rates than whites and Asians in 2017.

The U.S. Census Bureau annually calculates the poverty rate. For 2017, a family of four, including two children, that made less than $24,858 fell below the poverty line.

U.S. youth are much more racially diverse now than they were in 1990, as 47% are children of color, according to the foundation.

“In 2017, Latino kids represented 25 percent of children in the United States, up from 12 percent [in 1990]; Asian and Pacific Islander kids were 6 percent of the total, up from 3 percent,” the report states. The percentage of black and Native American children from 1990 to 2017 has remained at 15% and 1%, respectively.

Since 1990, the foundation has released annual reports ranking each state on overall child well-being based on 16 factors, including teen birthrate, percentage of children without health insurance and percentages of 3 and 4-year-olds attending preschool and teens graduating from high school.

The New England states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts ranked No. 1 and 2 in the latest report, and six of the top 10 states are in the Northeast. The 10 lowest-ranked states are in Appalachia, the southeast and southwest, with Louisiana and New Mexico ranked No. 49 and 50.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas, Florida and California had the most population growth by sheer numbers from 2017 to 2018, while the populations of Nevada, Idaho and Utah increased most by percentage.

Texas had the largest increase in youth population from 1990 to 2017, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It jumped by more than 2 million to 7.3 million.

The state’s large Latino population puts it a disadvantage for the foundation’s rankings. Texas will soon join California and New Mexico as states where the majority of children are Latino.

The study found that 20% of Latino high schoolers did not graduate on schedule in 2016-2017, compared to 11 percent of white high school students. “And Latino children were the most likely to live with a head of household who lacked a high school diploma and to not be in school when they were young,” the report states.

But Texas is hurting itself on one of the foundation’s other measures of child well-being. It is lagging in children’s health care, coming in last among the 50 states with 11% of children uninsured in 2017.

Critics says the embarrassing statistic comes from Texas Republican leaders’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would have made more children from poor families eligible, passing up $100 billion in federal funds the state could have tapped over a decade. Texas is one of just 14 states that have opted not to expand Medicaid.

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