Number of Children in Poverty At Highest Level this Decade

May 13, 2008

The number of Minnesota children living in poverty has climbed to the highest level of the decade, costing the state an estimated $5.7 billion each year, according to the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book.

This year's Data Book, titled "From Getting By to Getting Ahead," found that 152,000 Minnesota children , or 12 percent - lived in poverty in 2006, the latest year data is available. That number is a 33 percent increase since 2000. (Poverty is defined as about $21,000 in annual income for a family of four in 2007.) The costly problem diminishes the state's long-term productivity and economic output, and increases the public cost of health care and crime across the state, according to the report.

"Poverty for children is not merely unfortunate, it is damaging, not only to our children, but also to our state's future," said Jim Koppel, CDF Minnesota Director. "Those living in poor households often go hungry, are less healthy, less safe, and more likely to fall behind in school and be unprepared for the work force. We don't need more research to know that growing poverty harms Minnesota; what we need is for our policy makers to understand that it is in our long-term interest to reverse this trend."

Koppel said about 50,000 Minnesota children under age 5 (15 percent) live in poverty. Research finds that young children are most vulnerable to the stress of poverty, which can permanently impair language development and memory. These children's development is often adversely affected by unstable housing and child care arrangements, poor quality food, and delayed or no medical care. The problems are exacerbated by the unstable economy and the steep rise in the cost of health care, transportation, and child care for families.

Poverty Among State's Black Children Near Worst in United States

The report found that overall 12 percent of Minnesota's children live poverty. However the rate for non-white children was much higher. Fully 45 percent of Black children live below the poverty level, along with 26 percent of Hispanic/Latino children, and 20 percent of Asian children. Among the 33 states with enough Black children to produce reliable estimates, only three states (Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi) had higher poverty rates among Black children than Minnesota.

The annual KIDS COUNT publication provides state data as well as data from all 87 counties on a variety of indicators that show how well Minnesota's children and families are faring. The 2008 book focuses on family economic security, along with highlighting comprehensive data that shows how well Minnesota is meeting that basic needs all children share.

Other findings from the 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book:

  • Nearly 80 percent of Minnesota families have all available parents in the household in the work force, while the cost of child care has soared 55 percent in Minnesota in just under a decade. The average annual cost of full-time care for an infant at a child care center was $13,000 in 2007, or more than a full-time minimum wage worker could make in an entire year.

  • In Minnesota, an estimated 85,000 children (7 percent) lacked health insurance in 2004 to 2006 (the most recent national data), an increase of more than 20,000 children from four years prior. The number of uninsured children would fill every seat in the Metrodome, with tens of thousands still standing outside.

  • Among low-income children (under 200 percent of the poverty level), 15 percent are uninsured, along with 24 percent of low-income parents. Health care coverage is critical, not just to health but to a family's economic security, as lack of coverage often leads to bankruptcy for those with major medical events.

While the book reports some alarming statistics, it also highlights movements working to eradicate poverty, such as the Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020. The book also includes a list of "Partners in Prosperity," organizations that work with families to build assets and strengthen their future, and "Stars of the State" groups for using creative ways to support Minnesota families