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Report: More PA Kids Living in Concentrated Poverty

In Pennsylvania, 42% of African-American children live in concentrated poverty, compared with 28% nationally. (napatcha/Adobe Stock)
In Pennsylvania, 42% of African-American children live in concentrated poverty, compared with 28% nationally. (napatcha/Adobe Stock)
September 24, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania is one of ten states where the number of children living in areas of concentrated poverty has grown, according to a new report. The data shows a nine point increase in the percentage of children living in concentrated poverty in the Keystone state in 2013-2017 over the previous 4-year period.

Kelly Hoffman, vice president for data and strategy at the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, said those kids are more likely to have low incomes when they become adults than their peers who grow up in areas with good schools and good jobs.

"They also tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care, and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards such as poor air quality and lead,” Hoffman said.

The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation defined concentrated poverty as areas where 30% or more of residents live below the poverty line.

Nationally, 29 states and the District of Columbia showed some improvement. But Scot Spencer, associate state director of advocacy with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said that leaves 12% of the nation's children still living in poor areas.

"No children should be living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty,” Spencer said. “The fact that we still have 8.5 million children after multiple years of economic expansion and growth should not be a satisfactory solution for anyone in the United States."

Among the report's recommendations: increasing government support for affordable housing, job training programs and small-business loan programs.

Hoffman said additional steps can be taken to ensure all children get the opportunities they are entitled to.

"Every child needs to be counted in the 2020 census so that communities can draw down the appropriate amount of federal dollars to support children within those communities,” Hoffman said. “And policymakers really need to ensure that all children receive a high-quality public education."

She added Pennsylvania continues to have the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the nation.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA