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Report: Persistent Pockets of Poverty Plague Maryland Kids

February 23, 2012

BALTIMORE - The number of children living in high-poverty communities in Maryland has dropped by 23 percent during the past decade, according to a report released today - but that doesn't mean the problem has gone away.

A closer look at the census-based data in the new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows persistent pockets of concentrated poverty all over the state: in Baltimore, Dorchester, Somerset, Washington and Prince Georges counties.

Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director of policy reform, says children in these neighborhoods face problems ranging from education to safety.

"Harmful levels of stress. They're more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems. They have more trouble in school, have lower test scores."

The report calls for transforming disadvantaged communities through education, financial coaching and neighborhood revitalization. Al Passarella, research and policy associate at Advocates for Children and Youth in Baltimore, says economic development is a big need in areas of high poverty.

"You may need a nice, strong manufacturing base to be put back into Washington County. One of the things that afflicts western Maryland so much is the loss of manufacturing."

Speer says Maryland's overall improvement is in part attributable to projects which focus on so-called "anchor institutions" - businesses in high-poverty areas which take the lead in making the neighborhoods better places to raise children.

"In East Baltimore, there is a revitalization initiative going on, working with Johns Hopkins University."

It's interesting to note, Speer says, that about 75 percent of children living in an area of concentrated poverty have at least one parent in the workforce. African-American, American Indian and Latino children are six to nine times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than are their white counterparts.

The full report is online at AECF.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD