A new survey from the Annie E. Casey Foundation has shown that since 2005, the number of children living in poverty around the United States has grown to nearly a quarter, Susan Montoya Bryan reports for the Associated Press. Although there have been improvements in childhood health and education, “economic well-being” has suffered due to the ongoing financial difficulties the nation continues to experience.
Childhood poverty levels differ across states. In New Mexico, which ranks last, close to a third of children fell below the poverty line in 2011. New Mexico adults also found themselves in an increasingly difficult situations. According to the report, two-fifths of them lacked steady employment.
Meanwhile, gains in education attainment as reflected by standardized math and reading scores have improved the state that has traditionally found itself on the bottom of the rankings – Mississippi – yet it rose just one notch to 49th.
“There’s little doubt that things are getting worse,” said Kim Posich, executive director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Aside from the fact the New Mexico economy has been so slow to turn around, the systems that generally serve people who are the working poor and suddenly lose their jobs or face greater hardship, all those systems have been strained beyond the max.”
State Legislatures forced to deal with revenue shortfalls have had to make cuts to social programs, even those designed to help children in need. At the same time, third-party charitable groups that work along with the government have also had to deal with financial difficulties. All this has combined to cause a drop off in services offered to on-the-brink families to help keep them afloat, which has had a lingering effect on the well-being of their kids.
Curtis Skinner, director of the Family Economic Security at the National Center for Children in Poverty, says that the country won’t likely feel the full impact of the change for many years because childhood poverty tends to have an impact through adulthood. Skinner explains that children from families living below the poverty level frequently underperform in schools, have lower graduation rates and are less likely to enroll in and graduate from college than their higher-income peers.
Skinner said the center’s research is showing a troubling trend in the aftermath of the recession: Poverty rates are rising in what used to be the middle class, in two-parent households and in families where parents have college educations.