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Report: Poverty is Persistent in Eastern Wyoming

May 14, 2012

CASPER, Wyo. - Poverty is persistent on the Great Plains. A new report from the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) finds that poverty rates in rural eastern Wyoming are generally higher than poverty rates in urban areas of the state, especially among children.

Report author Jon Bailey says about 13 percent of the area's regional population lives in poverty, with that rate bumping to 16 percent for children. Kids in rural areas also face higher rates of food insecurity, he says.

Bailey, who directs the CFRA Rural Research and Analysis Program, says even though this report is new, the problems are not.

"In this part of the country, rural poverty rates became higher than urban poverty rates in about the mid-1970s, and they've remained higher since. It's something that's been with us for a couple of decades now."

Poverty problems in the Great Plains have not been a priority because of the stereotype that poverty is just a big-city or inner-city issue, Bailey says.

"Most of the rural places in this region contain mostly low-income, low-wage work. That's why we see a lot of de-population in the rural areas, too - especially younger people leaving for more urban areas."

The report examines data from the 2010 Census. Its recommendations include finding innovative ways to create rural economic opportunities and revitalize economies. Bailey says that could happen through federal, state and local policies, along with private-sector partnerships. He also notes that previous CFRA research has shown how USDA and Congressional policies that subsidize the biggest and most powerful farms hurt rural development.

The full report, "Poverty on the Great Plains," is available at http://bit.ly/JM1c2G.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY