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Report: Even Before Pandemic, AR Child Poverty On the Rise

According to 2018 data from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 26% of Arkansas children live in households with a high housing cost burden. (Adobe Stock)
According to 2018 data from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 26% of Arkansas children live in households with a high housing cost burden. (Adobe Stock)
June 29, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Childhood poverty in Arkansas is on the rise, according to data recently released by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, says about one in four children in the state now lives in poverty.

The Casey Foundation report also found 30% of children's parents lack secure employment, and Huddleston says he's concerned about the dwindling economic prospects for families amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Course that's data before the pandemic," he states. "And that data is really troubling because there's so much research out there about the negative impact that poverty has on child well-being in terms of their health, their brain development, their school performance."

Huddleston adds children growing up impoverished are more likely to be exposed to high levels of lead from unsafe housing, which is linked to a host of physical and mental health problems, and he says poverty tends to be concentrated in rural regions, especially along the Mississippi River Delta in the eastern part of the state.

Huddleston points out the poverty rates for children of color in Arkansas are more than twice that of white children.

"So we have students of color who were not only more likely to be living in poverty even before the pandemic, but now have likely lost ground on an education as well as a result of the pandemic, and there were already big disparities in educational outcomes before then," he states.

Huddleston says state lawmakers could help low-income families by enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, which reduces the amount of taxes owed based on income and individual circumstance.

"EITC has been shown by research to be one of the most effective things that you can do to reduce child poverty," he points out.

At least 28 states and Washington, D.C. offer a state EITC for working families.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR