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More CO Kids Growing up in Poor Neighborhoods

February 23, 2012

DENVER - A new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that the number of children living in high-poverty communities in Colorado has increased by 360 percent over the last decade, which translates into 92,000 children. Areas are considered high-poverty when 30 percent or more of the residents are below the federal poverty line.

Chris Watney, president and CEO of Colorado Children's Campaign, says it is one of the biggest increases in the country - and it seems counterintuitive, because Colorado still is below the national rate of about 11 percent of children living in high-poverty communities.

"Our kids are faring worse, as far as trends. The thing that's so alarming in Colorado is the rate at which this figure is growing. If it continues to grow at this rate, we will surpass the national average pretty quickly."

Watney says access to education - especially at the pre-kindergarten level - and health care can help break the cycle of poverty in neighborhoods.

The report found African-American, American Indian and Latino children are six to nine times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than their white counterparts. No matter what their race or ethnicity, children in the South and Southwest are also more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty.

Watney says Colorado's increase cannot be explained simply by hardship caused by the recession.

"The surprise is that Colorado is moving quickly in the wrong direction and faster than other places in the country are moving."

Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform with the Casey Foundation, says children in high-poverty neighborhoods face challenges in almost every aspect of their lives - even if their own families are not below the poverty line.

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

Speer notes that about 75 percent of children living in an area of concentrated poverty have at least one parent in the workforce.

The full report is available at AECF.org.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO