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Arkansas Children Continue to Lag Behind in Child Well-being

Children of color are grapple disproportionately with poverty, with 40 percent of black children living in low-income families, compared to 17 percent of white children. (Twenty20)
Children of color are grapple disproportionately with poverty, with 40 percent of black children living in low-income families, compared to 17 percent of white children. (Twenty20)
June 27, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In Arkansas, 28,000 fewer children are living in poverty than in 2010, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today.

However, the report ranks the state 41st in overall child well-being, as almost one in four children continues to live in poverty.

That makes the upcoming U.S. Census Bureau's count in 2020 all the more important, according to Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

"It's really important that all Arkansas children and all Arkansas individuals get counted as part of the Census, because the Census is what is used to determine population counts, which are used to determine how much federal funding states get for a lot of different programs," Huddleston said.

He said the tax cuts the Razorback State has seen since 2013 have also negatively affected the availability of funds to help children in need. Almost $300 million in state tax cuts largely benefited people in higher income brackets.

The Data Book also points out that children of color are disproportionately affected by poverty; the rates are 40 percent for black children, 34 percent for Hispanic children.

This year's Data Book shows upward trends in many aspects of child well-being nationwide, particularly in economic indicators. However, other domains show mixed results or stalled progress, according to Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation.

"We want to do right by all kids and make sure that they have strong families, strong communities and the opportunities that will help them to thrive. And many of the trends that we're seeing are really good," Speer said. "But there's still a lot of work to do."

Huddleston noted the number of children in poverty will impact Arkansas for generations, if the causes are not addressed.

"Poverty has a negative impact on child health, brain development, school performance, and possibly future earning potential, job prospects," he explained. "As a state, having a high poverty rate really does hurt our future workforce."

The full report is online at aecf.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - AR