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KIDS COUNT Report: TX Child Poverty 9th Worst in Nation

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August 17, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas ranks 35th among all states when it comes to the overall well-being of children, according to this year's national KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today.

Texas has been in the bottom third for the past decade. The state also ranks ninth worst in terms of child poverty - a particularly troubling statistic, according to Texas KIDS COUNT director Frances Deviney.

"There's been a steady climb in child poverty throughout the 2000s, but over the data from the last couple of years that we have, we've seen a real spike. Texas now has one of every four kids living in poverty."

Poverty affects kids' health, their ability to get health insurance, their educational prospects, and overall physical development, Deviney says.

"Poverty is really one of those bellwether indicators where we say if we don't really see a significant turnaround, we're going to have a whole generation of kids getting off on the wrong foot for the rest of their adult lives."

Texas has seen areas of improvement in recent years, she says. Child deaths have decreased, as have teenage dropouts. Texas still has the third highest teen birth rate in the country, with more than 6 percent of 15- to 19-year-old females carrying pregnancies to term. Deviney believes that number will rise again, since the Legislature recently cut family-planning spending by two-thirds.

The report says 30 percent of Texas children live in families where no parent has year-round, full-time employment. While the state has created more jobs than the rest of the nation during the recession, Deviney questions whether many of those new jobs are the kind that will help raise Texas children out of poverty.

"Are those jobs sufficient to be able to support families? And, given that they are jobs that are paying minimum wage or less, we would argue, no."

Texas leads the nation in low-paying jobs, with nearly ten percent of workers earning minimum wage or less. With recent budget cuts, some estimates say 100,000 Texans will soon join the ranks of the unemployed. KIDS COUNT offers a policy roadmap for putting children first, including increasing the availability of affordable health care and insurance, child-care assistance, foreclosure protections and more.

The full report, with Texas-specific figures, is online at cppp.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX