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Children Hardest Hit by Upstate Poverty

January 17, 2008

Buffalo, NY - Governor Eliot Spitzer tackled the economic distress of New York's "North Country" in Wednesday's first-ever "Upstate State of the State" address. Karen Schimke with the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy welcomes the governor's new northern focus, but is concerned about the extraordinary difficulties faced by upstate kids.

"Upstate child poverty, and this is Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, is over forty percent. So, it puts the issues that the Governor tried to lay out in his speech directly: to say, what will this mean to the well-being of poor children in those communities?"

Schimke says Spitzer's commitment to primary education and revamping upstate universities with improved ties to industry for new jobs are good tactics. However, she warns that a long-term package of anti-poverty strategies is needed, and that could take generations.

"If we want to break that persistence of poverty, we have to have one, two, or even three generations that do well in school so that they can prevent the next generation falling into poverty. So, you really need to support a child's family, and then later, children that child might have."

Schimke says the upstate child poverty rate is four times the national average and rescuing kids from poverty also means helping out their parents and older family members, so they can join the new upstate workforce.

"We really have to target a group of people that have not been especially targeted by the education system. That's people who are 25 to 49, who have a high school education, but have yet to go to college."

New York trails most of the nation in its proportion of adult college enrollment.

Robert Knight/John Robinson, Public News Service - NY