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Seeing the Bigger Picture on Child Poverty in Colorado

PHOTO: Without government safety net programs, child poverty in in Colorado would be nearly double what it is today, according to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo credit: Municipalidad de Talcahuano/ Wikimedia Commons
PHOTO: Without government safety net programs, child poverty in in Colorado would be nearly double what it is today, according to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo credit: Municipalidad de Talcahuano/ Wikimedia Commons
February 26, 2015

DENVER - Child poverty in Colorado would be nearly double if it weren't for federal and state assistance programs. That's according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that calculates child poverty by taking food stamps and other programs into account something the official federal poverty measure doesn't do.

Sarah Hughes, research director with Colorado Children's Campaign, says by using an updated and more accurate measuring tool, it's possible to see what's working and what's not.

"Here in Colorado, this report shows us the percent of kids living in poverty between 2011 and 2013 was almost cut in half," Hughes says.

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) was developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Using the SPM, researchers found the rate of children in poverty has actually declined since 1990, while the official federal measure shows no real change.

Hughes says when safety-net programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and housing subsidies are added into the equation, it shows government is playing a strong role in reducing child poverty.

"These things are not accounted for in the poverty measure we're currently using," says Hughes. "So we really don't have a good way, or didn't have a good way until now, of determining how many kids are lifted out of poverty by these safety net programs."

Both the official poverty measure and the SPM show that children of color are more likely than white children to live in poverty. The poverty rates among Latino and African American children were three times higher than whites.

Hughes says the SPM is a powerful tool that can help decision makers focus on the millions of children still growing up in poor families, by showing how safety net programs have helped, but still don't go far enough.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO