When times are bad, kids should be protected from harm. When the economy gets better, kids should share in the benefits.
But a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT data project shows that too many children have not experienced an economic recovery since the end of the Great Recession.
Washington is one of 29 states and the District of Columbia where the share of children growing up in areas of concentrated poverty has decreased since 2008.
That’s some good news: 33 percent fewer Washington children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods, where a dearth of investment in schools, good jobs, health infrastructure and other basics has deprived kids and families of the opportunities they need to thrive.
Yet alarmingly, the families remaining in such neighborhoods, here in Washington and around the country, are disproportionately households raising children of color.
Here in Washington, all kids of color are more likely than white children to be living in poor neighborhoods, with Black, American Indian and Latinx children 4-5 times more likely. Data about the state’s Asian Pacific Islander community is not sufficiently detailed, but other indicators suggest many households of Asian and Pacific heritage are growing up in similar conditions.
An area of concentrated poverty, according to the Census Bureau, is one with 30 percent or more households living below the official poverty threshold, or nearly $25,000 in annual income for a family of two adults and two children.
Children in high-poverty neighborhoods tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care, and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality. Children growing up in these conditions are more likely to have lower incomes than children who have relocated away from communities of concentrated poverty, according to the report.
These areas are the product of systemic racial oppression both past and present: the interplay of policies, practices, and pernicious stereotypes that have deprived families of color while inordinately enriching white households.
But these systems can change—with the joint work of government, engaged parents and community leaders.
Policymakers can do their part by increasing access to high-quality early experiences that benefit parents and children in tandem. They can also increase access to basic health and dental care in underserved communities. And fixing our upside-down revenue system, so that families with the least resources aren’t forced to pay the most in taxes, is a key form of economic relief that should also give us the means to pay for the public goods all kids and families need.
Read the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new data snapshot, “Children Living in High-Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods.”