There are 194,000 Minnesota Kids Living in Poverty

September 21, 2012

PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE by John Michaelson

ST. PAUL, Minn. – New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show the number of Minnesota children living in poverty rose to 194,000 in 2011. Kara Arzemendia, research director for the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, says that's up about 70 percent from a decade ago, although the big spike started in 2008.

"A big chunk of those kids are due, I think, to the economic conditions and the downturn and the recession – the employment conditions of families, fewer hours, those types of things. So, I think that explains a large part of the change."

To break the cycle, says Arzamendia, Minnesota needs to do a better job of investing in the young, because those benefits will be seen down the line with healthy and productive adults. Without that support, she warns, children in poverty are at greater risk for a variety of negative outcomes.

"Children living in poverty don't have as high of test scores; they don't do as well, academically, and this also follows them throughout their life trajectory. So, they're less likely to graduate high school. They're less likely to go to college. They're more likely to have children sooner. So, this perpetuates the cycle of poverty."

Since a child's economic stability is determined by their parents, Arzemendia feels there should be a two-generation approach – supporting not only the children, but also the families who care for them. In her opinion, one program that has done very well in that regard is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

"It certainly is one of the best programs out there we have to combat poverty. And it promotes work, because you have to be working, you have to file your taxes, in order to take part in the EITC. Expanding it would do huge things for families in order to keep them above the poverty line."

Children remain the poorest group in the country, by age. Nearly 22 percent of children in America live in poverty. In Minnesota, it's 15 percent. The data also show that black and Hispanic youth suffer most.