Local Commentaries
8:32 pm
Tue October 20, 2009

Bill Knight - October 22

Macomb, IL – Too often, people hear "poverty" and think of numbers, not faces, or urban stereotypes, not people.

A new study shows that rural regions such as the tri states area are hit by the economic downturn, too.

And the most vulnerable among us - children - are the most frequent victims.

The Great Recession in 2008 affected poverty rates for children under six years old unevenly, with rates in the rural Midwest rising significantly while rates in Northeastern cities fell some.

In the rural South - where nearly 30% of young kids are poor - poverty rates for children persisted at a very high rate.

This analysis of American Community Survey data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau is the first such data examined to capture the current recession. The study was produced by the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute.

Carsey Institute family demographer Beth Mattingly said, "All children suffer consequences of being poor, but young children are especially vulnerable. For children under six, the challenges of poverty include poorer health, lower quality education and programs, lower cognitive and behavioral functioning, and greater parental stress. There is also evidence that poverty is associated with a lower quality home environment and poorer parenting practices."

Among the key findings of the report:

Estimated young child poverty in the rural Midwest in 2008 was 22.8%, significantly higher than in 2007 (21.0%).

The young child poverty rate in Northeastern central cities fell by 0.7 percentage points to 27.6%. However, New England cities continue to have higher young child poverty rates than Northeastern rural and suburban places.

Young children in the rural South remain the most likely to be poor. More than one in three young children in the rural South are likely to be poor.

Estimates suggest more than 16% of American kids under the age of 6 last year lived in poverty. That's one in five children under 6.

Even more startling - especially in the context of the "good news" about the Dow Jones Industrial Average once more finishing above the 10,000 mark - is that in no regional breakdowns by place size did the number of young children in poverty decline since 2007.

Some even saw increases in the number of children under age 6 living in poverty.
Mattingly, who coauthored the report with Carsey research assistant Anne Shattuck, notes that while such changes from 2007 through 2008 are important, they don't fully reflect the current recession.

"When data are available for 2009, we are likely to see a bleaker picture for poverty, and for children in particular," says Mattingly, who is also a research assistant professor of sociology at UNH.