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More Kids Growing up in Poor Neighborhoods

February 23, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - The number of children living in high-poverty communities in Indiana has increased by 181 percent during the past decade, according to a KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

An area is considered high-poverty if 30 percent or more of its residents are below the poverty line.

Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director of policy reform, says children in these neighborhoods face challenges in almost every aspect of their lives.

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

In Indiana, 87,000 more children lived in the poorest neighborhoods in 2010 than in 2000. Nationally, the number went up 25 percent. 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.

Even if a family is not officially "in poverty" according to federal standards, she says, it still harms children when a lot of other people in the neighborhood are under that line.

"Living in an area of concentrated poverty limits the opportunities that families have available to them in order to get a better job, in order to make sure that the health and the welfare of their children is taken care of."

The report calls for transforming disadvantaged communities and makes several recommendations which can be tailored to each area. Speer says the idea is to make those neighborhoods better places to raise children.

"We know that it's important to support the families in the communities in terms of giving them access to financial coaching, as well as helping them with gaining employment skills."

She says the data also highlights the children most likely to live in such communities.

"For children of color in the United States, they're much more likely to have poverty within their households be compounded by also living in a high-poverty neighborhood and all the things that that means."

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. Regardless of race or ethnicity, children in the South and Southwest also are more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty.

The report is online at

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN