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Report: More WA Kids Grow Up Surrounded by Poverty

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February 23, 2012

SEATTLE - An estimated 87,000 children in Washington live in areas where at least 30 percent of their neighbors are poor, and that affects them negatively in a variety of ways. This and other findings are in a KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report says the number of Washington kids growing up in areas of concentrated poverty is up 50 percent since 2000. It represents 6 percent of the state's children, a much lower figure than the national average of 11 percent. However, Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children's Alliance, likens the situation to an entire school district growing up with more challenges and fewer opportunities.

"For us to respond to the health and educational consequences of children growing up in extreme poverty is going to be very difficult. This report calls on legislators to reverse some of the budget cuts that affect children in poverty."

Gould says about half of Washington counties have average income levels below the poverty line.

The report notes that children growing up in high-poverty areas experience harmful stress levels and are more likely to experience behavioral and emotional problems and trouble in school. It also found that African-American, Native American and Latino children are six to nine times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than white children.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform with the Casey Foundation, says that magnifies the pressures they may be under at home.

"Children of color in the United States are much more likely to have poverty within their households, which is compounded by also living in a high-poverty neighborhood and everything that means."

Speer says three out of four kids growing up in poor neighborhoods have at least one parent in the workforce. The Casey Foundation recommends promoting policies that support working families, and urges major institutions such as hospitals and universities to do their part to help make neighborhoods more stable and supportive.

The full report is online at AECF.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA