Report: Recession sends more Colorado kids into deep poverty

March 9, 2011

In a state where the number of children living in poverty has been growing faster than anywhere else in the United States, the recession was bound to make a bad situation worse.

And it did.

According to the “2011 Kids Count in Colorado” report, released Thursday by the nonprofit Colorado Children’s Campaign, the number of Colorado children living in poverty went up by 17 percent from 2008 to 2009, with minority kids faring even worse. Median family incomes dropped by $1,800 and the number of homeless students enrolled in public schools jumped 53 percent from the 2006-07 school year.

Another sobering statistic: The number of children whose families live in extreme poverty — defined as a family of four making $11,000 or less annually — climbed from 65,000 in 2008 to 95,000 in 2009.

“I think the most critical thing we are seeing in this year’s ‘Kids Count’ report is the impact of the recession,” said Chris Watney, president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “What we see here is that the impacts are wide, and there are long-term implications.”

This is the 18th “Kids Count” report issued by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, which advocates for the well-being of the state’s youngest residents. The report is brimming with statistics compiled from numerous sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, and the organization aims to get it into the hands of policymakers who make the decisions that can help children in need.

“We say, what gets measured, gets changed, and we hope these numbers can provide a sort of road map to policymakers about what they can change,” Watney said.

In addition to showing a rise in childhood poverty, the report also paints a bleak picture for Colorado children in other measures, including high suicide rates, increased cases of abuse and neglect, and rapidly rising obesity numbers.

The poverty statistics for El Paso and Teller counties are better overall than the statewide figures. In El Paso County, 15.2 percent of children younger than 18 were living in poverty in 2009, compared with 16.6 percent statewide. Teller County was at 13.9 percent.

The deepest pockets of need in the state continue to be in Saguache, Alamosa, Huerfano, Costilla and Conejos counties in south-central Colorado, and Crowley, Otero, Bent and Prowers counties in southeast Colorado — areas plagued by entrenched, generational poverty.

“But what we’ve seen in the last decade, some of the Front Range communities — especially in the Denver metro area — are seeing increases at a much higher rate. It’s really an issue that the whole state has to look at.”

One bright spot in the report is a drop in the number of uninsured children statewide— about 42,000 since 2008. El Paso County’s numbers are particularly impressive, Watney said: About 10.1 percent of the state’s children are uninsured, compared with 5.2 percent in El Paso County.

The organization says that failure to address childhood poverty has lasting consequences that affect kids well into adulthood.

“Poverty has profound effects on children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive health and development, with long-term implications for educational achievement, health, and behavior,” the report says.


A sampling of some notable numbers

• 210,000 children, or about 16.6 percent of all kids under 18 years old, were living in poverty in 2009, compared with 179,000 in 2008
• The number of non-Hispanic white children living in poverty increased 12 percent from 2008 to 2009. For black children, the increase was 27 percent. For Hispanic children, the increase was 17 percent.
• 340,000 children were living in families where no parent had a full-time job
• 82,000 children in poverty in 2009 lived in married-couple families. About 123,000 lived in single-parent families.
• 8 percent of children were living in extreme poverty in 2009, compared with 5 percent in 2008
• Based on participation rates in five major safety net programs, Colorado recorded the second greatest increase in partipcation in the U.S. from 2008 to 2009.

El Paso County
• 15.2 percent of children 17 and younger were living in poverty in 2009, compared with 14.6 percent in 2008
• 35.9 percent of children received vouchers in 2009 under the federal WIC nutritional program for low-income mothers and kids up to age 5, compared with 31.1 percent in 2008. Statewide, 29.6 percent of children received vouchers in 2009.

Teller County

• 13.9 percent of children were living in poverty in 2009, compared with 12.3 percent in 2008.
• 15.8 percent of children born in 2009 were low-birth rate babies, compared with 8.8 percent statewide
• 100 percent of children were in a full-day kindergarten program in 2010, compared with 64 percent statewide and 76.4 percent in El Paso County

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