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Over 25 Years, SD Child Poverty Rate Remains Constant

Since 1993, the number of South Dakota households headed by women has increased 112 percent. (pixabay)
Since 1993, the number of South Dakota households headed by women has increased 112 percent. (pixabay)
May 21, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A new report says the overall number of children living in poverty in South Dakota hasn't changed much in the past 25 years. What has risen sharply in the past two decades is the percentage of families led by single parents - both women and men.

Carole Cochran, project director with South Dakota Kids Count, said the agency's new research looks at labor markets and education, race, and demographic characteristics to determine how many children under age 18 are living below the federal poverty line.

"We've had a low of 14 percent for a few years, beginning in the early 2000s, and it's been as high as 19 percent,” Cochran said. “And we're currently at 17 percent."

Cochran said families with only one income earner are more likely to fall into poverty.

In the past 25 years, the number of South Dakota households headed by single women has increased 112 percent, and those headed by single men are up 98 percent. In the same time period, families headed by a married couple declined by 7 percent.

The report suggested that South Dakota's unemployment rate, currently at 3 percent, hasn't played a large role in the state's poverty rate. At the same time, the number of South Dakotans who hold more than one job is higher than any other state in the nation.

Cochran said she believes the state needs to better address the wage gap that results from lower educational achievement and skill levels.

"Making sure that students who are graduating from high school go on for some additional education is going to help immensely in terms of poverty,” she said.

She added poverty is highest for American Indian and African American female-headed households in South Dakota, making it a complex problem that needs constant attention.

"If we want to have an educated workforce, we want to have thriving communities,” she said. “We need to take a look at poverty and how we can help families to not just come up to the poverty level, but go beyond that."

The report also showed a significant decrease in the number of grandparents caring for grandchildren. South Dakota matched the overall national figure, with a decrease of 10 percent.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD