Child Poverty Figures Should Be Wake-up Call

Costly Trend Steals $5 Billion Annually From Minnesota's Economy 

August 28, 2008

New U.S. Census Bureau figures released show that the percentage of Minnesota children living in poverty in 2007 was dramatically higher than it was in 2000. This should be a wake up call for state leaders because the trend not only damages children, but also costs the state's economy more than $5 billion each year, according to CDF-Minnesota officials.

Almost 12 percent (143,000) of Minnesota children lived in poverty last year, up by 35 percent since 2000. For children under age 5, the 2007 poverty rate is 14.2 percent, meaning nearly 50,000 of the state's youngest children lived below the poverty level (about $21,000 in annual income for a family of four).

"This has deep implications for our state's economic and social future. If we don't turn this around with investments and action, all Minnesotans will lose," said CDF Minnesota Director Jim Koppel. "Children in poverty start off behind and often can't catch up, and that is costly to our schools, our criminal justice system, our health care system, and the future productivity of our state's workforce."

Koppel said despite an expanding economy in 2007 and several years before that, tens of thousands of Minnesota families lost ground during that period and continue to struggle to meet basic needs. The state's 2007 median household income was actually $2,500 below what it was in 2000 when adjusted for inflation, he said, and the recent economic downturn has only exacerbated the trend.

Long-term Trends Damaging to Both Children and Families

"The data often doesn't allow us to see trends from one year to the next," said CDF Research Director Andi Egbert. "But when you look at the decade, you see how much ground families and children have lost. Nearly one in 10 of all Minnesotans lived in poverty in 2007, and Minnesota was one of 19 states with significant increases in total poverty since the start of the decade."

Egbert said that the poverty measure is considered a poor yardstick to measure economic hardship because it is based on an outdated measure of what families need to afford today's basic necessities. Some experts believe a family of four needs about double the poverty level to really make ends meet. "The majority of families in poverty are working," she said, "but many of today's jobs do not offer a road out of poverty."

Poverty in Some Minnesota Counties Far Above State Average

Egbert said that the child poverty rate in some Minnesota Counties is far above the state's average of 11.6 percent. In Ramsey and St. Louis counties, one in five children live in poverty, she said. (Attached is a box with child poverty figures from the Minnesota counties with large enough sample sizes to reliably measure.)

The U.S. Census Bureau report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007, and detailed data tables are available at

2008 Poverty Chart