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Report: Children of Color Lag Behind in Minnesota

While Minnesota ranks first among states in the latest national Kids Count Data Book, the research shows children of color still face serious disadvantages. (iStockphoto)
While Minnesota ranks first among states in the latest national Kids Count Data Book, the research shows children of color still face serious disadvantages. (iStockphoto)
June 21, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota tops the nation when it comes to children's well-being, but a new report says there's still work to do, especially for children of color.

In the latest national Kids Count Data Book, Minnesota ranked number one for the second year in a row, with big improvements in education and health-care access.

The numbers also show the state has seen a big drop in the rates of teen drug abuse and teen births.

But Stephanie Hogenson, research and policy director for the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, said the state continues to struggle with one of the highest rates of poverty among minority children.

"For example, about three-quarters of black and American Indian children, nearly two-thirds of Hispanic or Latino children, and almost half of Asian children live in in low-income households," said Hogenson.

She added that Minnesota could help ease the financial burdens on these families in several ways, including setting up a statewide paid family-leave program and boosting childcare assistance.

The Kids Count Data Book ranks each state on 16 benchmarks, including health and education. While Minnesota saw improvements or held steady in most areas, seven indicators worsened.

For instance, the number of young children not in school has been on the rise; and the rate of children living in poverty is now 15 percent, up from 11 in 2008.

Hogenson is convinced Minnesota lawmakers should focus more attention on policies to help minority and low-income families.

"Economic stability is an area where we definitely need to see improvement," she explained. "We have vast disparities in employment for workers of color. So, we need to make sure that there are work-support programs and tax credits that support low-income working families."

According to the report, 65,000 more Minnesota children were living in low-income homes in 2014 than in 2008.

This year, state lawmakers voted to expand the state's Working Family Tax Credit, which Hogenson said could help lift more families out of poverty. That bill is part of a funding package likely to come up for a special session vote sometime this summer.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN