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Contact: Ed Walz
Phone: (202) 657-0685

Child Poverty Statistics Mask Alarming Increases in Some States

Poverty & Family Economics

Ed Walz
(202) 657-0685 (office)

Washington — A new analysis released Thursday by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization First Focus finds that child poverty in several states grew at rates more than triple the national average from 2010 to 2011. This trend, obscured by the fact that the child poverty rate nationwide held steady over the same period, underscores the recession’s lasting impact on America’s children.

“The recession may be technically over, but it’s continuing to affect kids every day,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley. “In some states, the child poverty rate jumped 20 percent or more in just one year.”

The report finds that child poverty rates grew fastest in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, with year-to-year increases of 12 to 22 percent – three to five times the national average increase in child poverty. It confirms that child poverty grew at a rate more than twice the national average in Arizona, Illinois, Oregon, and Wyoming. Though many states in these two tiers remain among those with the nation’s lowest child poverty rates, these findings suggest that children in these states are becoming increasingly vulnerable as families continue to struggle through a difficult economy.

The advocacy group urged leaders in Congress to increase the federal government’s commitment to reducing child poverty. Immediate actions recommended by First Focus analysts included:

  1. Maintaining improvements to the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which together lift more than five million children out of poverty every year;
  2. Rejecting budget cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) – more than 70 percent of SNAP benefits help to meet the nutritional needs of families with children;
  3. Restore the expired Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Supplemental Grants and improve TANF to strengthen its focus on child poverty reduction, eliminate funding disparities across state lines, and enhance accountability.

“We know what Congress can do to protect kids from the recession’s fallout: make TANF an effective shield against child poverty; protect family tax credits — the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit — and SNAP; extend and enhance the Children’s Health Insurance Program, so it can work with Medicaid to cover uninsured kids. Congress knows what they can do — the question is whether they’ve got the will to act,” said Lesley.