Poverty climbs among Nebraska’s children

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August 18th, 2011

Omaha, NE – A new report shows more children are living in poverty in Nebraska. In fact, almost half of African American kids in the state are now living below the poverty line.

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Child poverty in Nebraska has climbed from 10% in 2000 to 15% in 2009. (Photo courtesy State of Nebraska)

The numbers show Nebraska has made some improvements over the last decade. Reported in the annual Kids Count report, prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the numbers show Nebraska ranks ninth in the nation for children’s general health and well-being. The infant mortality rate and teen death rate is down, along with the teen dropout rate.

But while Nebraska has been buffered from some of the economic stress of a national recession, the number of children living in poverty in the state is up 50% over the last decade. The number increased from 10% to 15.2% from 2000 to 2009.

“With more and more kids in poverty, we do have reason to be concerned,” said Melissa Breazile, the Research Coordinator with Voices for Children in Nebraska. “Poor children are at increased risk of struggling in school, of getting sick of being hungry, of being unsafe.”

The numbers also show huge racial disparities. While 11.2% of white children live in poverty in Nebraska, 48.4% of African American children do. Breazile said black families, in particular, have struggled to obtain upward mobility. But that’s across the board.

“Economic mobility is at lowest level in half a century,” Breazile said. “So in other words, if we continue on our current path, most of the kids born today will follow in their parent’s socio-economic footsteps. Their education, their occupation and their wealth are likely to mirror that of their parents.”

Breazille called for state and national policies directed at improving the economic stability of parents in Nebraska, which in turn could change the direction of their children’s futures. Those policies include securing federal safety net programs, like food stamps or children’s health insurance, Breazille said, and making childcare more affordable as a way to reduce barriers to employment.

Breazille said the Kids Count report shows 42% of the poorest kids will stay that way as adults, while 39% of wealthy children will stay wealthy later in life.

It’s a gap that continues to grow, while children and families across the state absorb the impact of an ongoing economic slump.

Click here to see the full Kids Count report for Nebraska.

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