Researchers at the Annie E. Casey Foundation have found that more children are living in poverty after the recent economics recession than before it.
180,000 children in Maryland were living in poverty in 2013 — an increase of 10% since 2008. These numbers are higher than they were during the Great Recession because, say the scientists, economic recovery has not reached those who have been struggling the most, write Andrea K. McDaniels and Talia Richman of The Baltimore Sun.
"Living in poverty" is defined in Maryland as a family of four living on $24,250 or less a year. According to Nonso Umunna, the research director at the Baltimore-based Advocates for Children and Youth, children are affected in every aspect of their lives by their financial circumstances. He added that not being able to afford health insurance affects children's lives in innumerable ways.
"If your economic state is poor, that backs up against you," he said. "From time to time you hear stories of children who came from poverty and were able to become successful, but that is more the exception than the rule."
Recovery has come to Maryland slowly, partly because the state's economy is dependent on federal jobs and contracts. These jobs remained during the recession, but were cut afterwards. Research economist Richard Clinch said the state needs to diversify away from federal spending, which will not be growing as it has in the past.
But in spite of the discouraging findings, Maryland fared better than much of the rest of the country in the foundation's report, coming in at 11th for child well-being, which measures health, economic, educational, and other components. Child and teen deaths decreased from 30 per 100,000 in 2008 to 22 in 2013. The non-proficiency rating in reading for fourth-graders dropped by almost 10%, and the number of high school students not graduating dropped as well.
The Family League of Baltimore offers low-income families assistance, such as mentors for children who have behavioral problems. The group sees the problem as a four-legged stool with health outcomes, under-performing schools, high crime, and unemployment all being a part of the high rate of poverty statewide.
"Poverty definitely reaches across generations," said Demaune A. Millard, Family League's chief operating officer. "Unless you are in a position to address some of the systematic challenges, that is the only way you will be able to make significant progress."
Other good news from the report, writes YouthToday's Lynne Anderson, includes a decline in teen pregnancies and an increase in the number of children who have insurance. The economic setbacks, however, "are deeply troubling", according to a Casey policy expert. Laura Speer, Associate Director for Policy Reform and Advocacy, is most concerned about the growing number of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, and the fact that African American youth were more than twice as likely to live in these neighborhoods and to live in single-parent homes.
Hispanic children were most likely to live in a household led by someone who did not have a high school diploma. The children most likely to have no health insurance were Native-Americans.
One of the reasons for the rise in children who live in high-poverty neighborhoods, says the report, is the housing crash that caused foreclosures and the necessity for families to rent. As a result, rents increased and forced many families into lower-rent neighborhoods.
The report concludes with a call to action which explains that proper investments will provide all families and children the opportunity to reach their full potential and strengthen both the state's economy and the nation's.