23,000 Fewer Minnesota Children Living in Poverty

For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 15, 2016

For More Information Contact:

Stephanie Hogenson 
shogenson@childrensdefense.org
(612) 978-7365

ST. PAUL, Minn.— According to numbers released today by the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, the number of Minnesota children living in poverty* declined by about 23,000 to approximately 165,000 children from 2014 to 2015. According to an analysis by Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, this is the most significant one-year decline since the recession began, but there are still 25,000 more Minnesota children living in poverty now than in 2008. Additionally, Minnesota has some of the highest rates of children of color and American Indian children living in poverty with these populations making up nearly two-thirds of the entire child population living in poverty despite being less than 30 percent of the total child population.

The child poverty rate in Minnesota fell from 14.9 percent (188,717 children) in 2014 to 13.1 percent (165,399 children) in 2015. Despite the decline in child poverty, the data continue to show that more needs to be done in Minnesota for the economic recovery to be fully realized by lower income families, particularly for families of color and American Indian families who have some of the highest child poverty rates in the country. Minnesota has the most job vacancies since 2001 and the state’s overall unemployment rate is at pre-recession levels. The median wage for those available jobs has increased from $12.27 per hour in 2008 to $14 per hour, which at full-time, year-round employment just barely exceeds the poverty threshold* for a family of four. People of color face disparities in employment with 8.7 percent of black workers and 5 percent of Hispanic or Latino workers unemployed compared to 2.9 percent of White workers. While all other child populations saw a decrease in the number in poverty, Asian children saw a slight increase.

Children living in poverty and state rank by race/ethnicity, 2015

 Race/Ethnicity  Number  Rate  State Rank
 White  65,268  7.3  3
 American Indian  4,217  27.6  17
 Asian  16,320  22.6  42
 Black  42,968  39.0  31
 Hispanic/Latino  27,528  25.7  14
 Two or more races  11,801  15.6  10
 TOTAL  165,399  13.1  4

“With our state’s population shifting through an increasing number of retirees and a more diverse child population, our collective future prosperity depends on the success of each of our state’s children. It’s promising to see a decline in the number of children in poverty, but many children, including thousands above the poverty threshold, are still in families struggling to access basic needs and opportunities to learn, grow and explore. Far too many of our state’s future workers are experiencing the negative effects economic instability and disparity has on development and long-term outcomes,” said Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota’s (CDF-MN) Research and Policy Director Stephanie Hogenson.

The state’s youngest children experience poverty at higher rates with 14.3 percent of Minnesota children under age 6 living in poverty – a decrease of more than 16 percent over 2014. Young children are also more likely to live in extreme poverty* with 6 percent of Minnesota children under age six in extreme poverty compared to 5.4 percent of all children under 18. Since the early years of a child’s life is when the greatest period of rapid brain development occurs, poverty in these years has a greater effect on children’s development and future outcomes.

“Two-generation solutions that improve parents’ earning potential and increase children’s access to opportunity are critical to improving child outcomes and beginning to address the systemic barriers that exist particularly for families of color and American Indian families,” said Bharti Wahi, CDF-MN Executive Director. “Recent policy changes like increasing the minimum wage and investing in early education, child care and children’s health coverage are proven strategies to alleviate the effects of poverty and improve economic, academic and health outcomes for Minnesota children. To continue to have a growing economy and productive workforce, Minnesota must stay the course and continue investing in these and other programs that help put children on a path to success. Fully funding the Child Care Assistance Program, increasing the Minnesota Family Investment Program cash grant, and implementing a paid family and medical leave insurance program are all solutions that we can adopt to give families the resources and opportunities they need to move forward."

Nearly 6,000 families are on the waiting list for the underfunded Child Care Assistance Program, which provides assistance to reduce child care costs for lower income families. MFIP – Minnesota’s welfare-to-work program – cash grant has not been increased since 1986 and a family of three accessing the program currently receives a maximum cash grant of $532 per month, which leaves families below extreme poverty. Nearly three-quarters of Minnesota children live in families where all available parents are in the workforce, yet a majority of workers nationally do not have paid family and medical leave through their employers. Access is unequally distributed with disparities by race, ethnicity, earnings levels, work schedules, and age. Without paid leave, workers may have to choose between caring for their family members and economic hardship.

The poverty measure is the most widely known measure of family economic stability, but the cost of basic needs for a family of four far exceeds the poverty guidelines. CDF-MN estimates that even the most bare bones basic needs budget, including food, housing, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities for a healthy standard of living, for a family of four living in the Twin Cities would be nearly $50,000. That’s more than two times the poverty guidelines*.

* Poverty is defined as an annual income below $24,257 for an average family of four, or less than $2,021 a month, or $66.46 a day. Extreme poverty is half of the annual poverty level, or less than $12,129 for a family of four

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