Data released Tuesday by one of the nation’s leading children’s charities reveals that economic recovery is lagging among the lowest income families and, especially in Connecticut, has left behind a disproportionate number of minority children.
Roger Senserrich, policy director at the Connecticut Association for Human Services, cited statistics for 2013 that show 28 percent of black children and 33 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared to 6 percent of white children.
The Kids Count Data Book, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has been examining the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of children for more than a quarter century. This year, the annual study ranked Connecticut sixth in the nation for the overall well-being of its children. The state was in the top five in the areas of children’s health and education and in the top third of the nation for the effect of the economy on kids.
But Senserrich said the local picture, especially in certain cities, looks very different.
“Racial disparities are especially pronounced in Connecticut — our state is the second most unequal in the country,” he said. “Poverty is extremely concentrated in a few cities, as well — half of the children living in poverty live in just five communities — Hartford, Bridgeport, New Britain, New Haven, and Waterbury.”
The state’s most impoverished municipalities have higher numbers of chronic school absenteeism, low birth rates, teen pregnancy, and infant mortality.
Data from the Connecticut Association for Human Services shows an infant mortality rate of 3.8 out of 1,000 white children. The infant mortality rate among black children is 10 out of 1,000. In Bloomfield, where 65 percent of the population is black, 20 out of every 1,000 babies die before they reach their first birthday.
“Once you look under the hood and look at the numbers by town with more detail, you see those disparities are there and they need to be addressed,” Senserrich said.
The Kids Count Data Book shows approximately 13,000 more children across the state lived in low-income families in 2013 compared to 2008, during the recession. Twenty-nine percent of the state’s children were part of families in which no parent had full-time employment, a 17-percent increase from 2008.
The five states coming in higher than Connecticut in the study’s rankings are Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Minnesota. The lowest ranked states were Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mississippi.
Nationally, the study found that one in four children lived in low-income, working families in 2013. Nearly a third of children are part of households that can’t depend on full-time, year-round jobs.
Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said policies need to be put in place to promote economic stability.
“Although we are several years past the end of the recession, millions of families still have not benefited from the economic recovery. While we’ve seen an increase in employment in recent years, many of these jobs are low-wage and cannot support even basic family expenses. Far too many families are still struggling to provide for the day-to-day needs of their children, most notably for the 16 million kids who are living in poverty,” McCarthy said.
The Casey Foundation recommends policies that promote higher pay, sick leave, flexible scheduling, and expanded unemployment benefits that will result in higher family income, reduced parental stress and an increased capacity of parents to invest in their kids.
This year’s session of the General Assembly, which ended last month, included measures to hire a consultant to examine paid family leave; strengthened legislative language regarding penalties for wage theft; and the creation of a low-wage advisory board.