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Report Reveals Wide Childhood Disparities Among NC Counties

Almost one in five North Carolina children faces hunger on a regular basis. (Adobe Stock)
Almost one in five North Carolina children faces hunger on a regular basis. (Adobe Stock)
June 10, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Kids in Union County are faring better than those in other parts of the state, according to a new report that looks by county at who's doing the most to protect and provide for their children.

The nonprofit group Save the Children checked on factors that can cut childhood short -- including food insecurity, dropping out of high school, early pregnancy and early death -- in more than 2,600 counties across the nation. Mark Shriver, Save the Children's senior vice president for U.S. programs and advocacy, said they found deep inequities in places such as Washington County, where the child poverty rate is almost 40%.

"It's stunning, and meaning two in five children in that county are growing up in poverty," he said. "And again, when you see there's a direct correlation between children living in poverty and children struggling, North Carolina has a long way to go."

The report found that in the bottom-ranked counties nationwide, children die at rates up to five times higher than children in the highest-ranked counties, are 15 times more likely to drop out of high school, and 26 times more likely to get pregnant.

Shriver said the state is improving in some areas, such as on-time high school graduation rates.

"North Carolina is 31st among states," he said. "It's moved up four spots since the 2018 Save The Children childhood report."

Shriver said the findings underscore how racial and economic divides limit opportunities for children of color and for those living in rural communities.

"And you see that 30% of the bottom-ranked counties are majority-black, despite the fact that they account for 3% of U.S. counties. And almost 30% of bottom-ranked counties are majority-Native American."

While the figures were collected before the coronavirus pandemic, he added that children in disadvantaged communities are likely being hardest hit by the crisis.

The report is online at savethechildren.org.

Disclosure: Save the Children contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Early Childhood Education, Education and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC