Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Liz Fraser, CAHS policy director, explains the report (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s economy is failing Connecticut’s children, according to 30 years of data collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation with the help of the Connecticut Association of Human Services.

The data released Tuesday, which tracks the progress of Connecticut’s children in several areas, found that over the past 30 years, Connecticut has seen a 30% increase in children living in poverty. The number of children living in high-poverty areas increased 60% over that same period of time. 

Nationally, the most encouraging gains for children were found in their measure of “Economic Well-being,” but in Connecticut it was the opposite.

In Connecticut in 2017, the last year for which data was available, almost 60,000 children lived in high-poverty areas defined as census tracts where over 30% of the households fall below the federal poverty-level threshold, which is around $24,858 for a family of two adults and two children.

Dig a little deeper into those numbers and the data shows that 1 in 5 black children and 1 in 5 Latinx children lives in concentrated poverty compared to 1 in 100 white children.

Two factors exacerbating this poverty are housing costs and employment.

Over the past 30 years, six percent more children are living in households with a high housing burden. Connecticut also still lags behind the nation as a whole when it comes to employment. There’s been a 30% increase in the number of children living in homes where a parent lacks secure employment.

There’s also a wide racial disparity in the post-recession period between 2011 and 2017: where white children living in households with employment insecurity is around 20%, it’s nearly twice that amount for Latinx and black children.

Over the past three decades, the number of children living in single-parent families has increased 43%.

“For the Connecticut economy to thrive and grow, we need all families to have the opportunity to prosper and become economically mobile,” Liz Fraser, CAHS policy director, said. “If everyone participated fully in the economy Connecticut would gain added tax revenue, more goods and services would be purchased, more families could purchase a home.”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation says that growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development.

Nationally, the child poverty rate is around 18%, which is down from 22% in 2010.

Stephen Hernandez, executive director of the state’s Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, said more kids are living in poverty and more children are being born low-weight and “that’s something that really concerns us.”

He said those two data points are something lawmakers need to think about as they prepare for the 2020 legislative session.

As dark as that picture is, the data wasn’t all bad news.

Connecticut is ranked first in the nation in preschool participation and third in both fourth-grade reading proficiency and teen high-school dropout rates.

Children living in families where the head of household lacks a high-school diploma have declined 53% and teen births have decreased 77%.

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said “data moves policy.”

As House Chair of the Human Services Committee, she and fellow lawmakers will use this 30 years of data to change policy to improve outcomes.

One measure will be to allow Care4Kids, the childcare subsidy program, to be used by parents seeking to go to school to complete their degrees. Right now, in order to qualify for the program, a parent must be working.

Advocates argue that parents can’t climb the economic ladder without a degree.

“The time has come for us to now pay so that moms can go to school,” Abercrombie said.

Jasia Flowers talked about how she wound up in the care of the Department of Children and Families, dropped out of school and then became pregnant. She talked about how she struggled to get her GED and complete school with a child. Lack of quality childcare has forced her to start and stop her education several times.