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  • Child Poverty On the Rise in Many States

    A disproportionate share of the national increase in the number of poor young children occurred in the nation’s three most populous states--California, New York and Texas. While these three states experienced increases of 24, 21 and 24 percent respectively in their young child poverty rates (YCPR) in the last 20 years, five smaller states--Oklahoma, Montana, Arizona, West Virginia and Louisiana--experienced even sharper rises, ranging from 40 to 53 percent in the same period.

    These findings have been complied by the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) in the first of a new series of briefs designed to explore the consequences of young child poverty as well as identify and critically examine strategies to reduce its incidence. The wide variations in state child poverty trends have been attributed to three variables: family structure, parental education and parental employment. Immigration is also an important factor in the growth of family poverty in the largest states.

    “Our research raises a red flag for anyone who things that our high rate of young child poverty can be explained by a single demographic factor,” said Dr. Neil Bennet, the NCCP director of demographic research and analysis and co- author of the report.

    Beginning in 1998, each of the 50 states has been required to provide annually a current estimate of its YCPR to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If the rate increases by 5 percent or more and the increase can be attributed to welfare reform, the state is required to submit a corrective action plan to the federal government.

    “Congress and the President were absolutely right to require that state child poverty rates be tracked as part of welfare reform,” asserts Dr. Larry Aber, director of NCCP. “But it would be absolutely wrong for any elected official to declare welfare reform a success without knowing its impact on child poverty.” NCCP hopes to focus greater attention on young child poverty within individual states with the publication of this first brief. It may encourage a race to the top among states to find the most effective strategies to prevent young child poverty.

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