Poverty among children living in Connecticut has increased by 50 percent since the Annie E. Casey Foundation began keeping track in 1990, according to an annual report from the foundation.
The sobering statistic was part of a mixed bag of good and bad numbers in the 25th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book released this week. The report tracks the well-being of children in all 50 states and the nation as a whole. The status of children is measured by indicators like kids’ economic situation, education, health, and family situation. The report is based on data from 2010 to 2012.
Overall, Connecticut ranks seventh in child well-being, which is an improvement from last year when the state ranked at an all-time low of ninth place.
But the state’s high overall rankings can be misleading, Connecticut Association for Human Services policy analyst Tamara Kramer said at a Tuesday press conference.
“We know the state’s overall performance masks major disparities between children of color and their white peers,” she said.
Wade Gibson, director of the Fiscal Policy Center at Connecticut Voices for Children, said Connecticut may be the only state to see a 50 percent increase in child poverty since 1990, when about one in every 10 children lived in poverty. Now, nearly one in six children lives in poverty, Gibson said.
“There are very few states in the country where you can say that. We may be the only state that has had a 50 percent rise in child poverty,” he said.
Orlando Rodriguez, an analyst for the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, said the numbers are more striking when you account for racial and ethnic backgrounds. Poverty rates among African American, Hispanic, and mixed-race children are significantly higher than among their white counterparts, he said.
“If you don’t dig a little deeper, you don’t see a quarter of your Hispanics and a quarter of your African Americans living in poverty,” he said.
The report did include some bright spots for Connecticut. For instance, the state scored 5th in the overall educational well-being of children. Only 37 percent of children in Connecticut do not have access to preschool, which is the lowest rate in the country.
“This is up to 4-year-old data, so this doesn’t even reflect recent investments. So, I think what’s great about this indicator is it shows that when we commit to something, when we make something a priority, we can move and we can be the best state in the country,” Kramer said.
During Tuesday’s press conference, some of the speakers offered policy recommendations to improve the well-being of children in Connecticut. Gibson said that more state resources need to be devoted to supporting children. During the 25 years in which child poverty has risen, Gibson said the state has spent a declining percentage of its budget on children.
Gibson called for expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program and increased access to early childhood education programs.
“As we do these two things, because they do cost money, it’s crucial that we continue working to expand the share of the budget that goes to kids,” he said. “And make sure that when we spend more money . . . that we don’t take money away from another area that benefits kids. Too often we pay for an expansion in K-12 education by dialing back higher education.”