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11% of CA's children --1 out of 8 in U.S. live in povertyby Elizabeth J Carlyle 2/27/2012 12:00:00 AMShare
More than 1 million of California's children (11%) live in areas of concentrated poverty.

Just out, KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) shows that more than 1 million of California's children (11%) live in areas of concentrated poverty, reports Bernice Yeung of California Watch.

Nationally, there are 7.9 million children living in these areas (up from 6 million in 2000), which means nearly 1 out of 8 children living in poor, disadvantaged neighborhoods in the U.S. lives in California. Read the full report here.

AECF define an area of concentrated poverty as at least 30% of residents live below the federal poverty level— $22,314 per year for a family of four. Studies show the effects of concentrated poverty begin once neighborhood poverty rates rise above 20% and continue to grow as the poverty levels reach the 40% threshold. However in California, according to a December 2011 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, unofficial poverty rates are even higher when the high cost of living is accounted for. 

Research has also shown as neighborhood poverty rates increase, families are more likely to struggle to meet basic needs despite family income remaining constant; children in poor neighborhoods also face greater barriers to success, have significant health challenges and higher levels of stress due to a lack of resources critical to healthy development, have more behavioral and emotional problems, get lower test scores in school, and are more likely to drop out

The data, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s  American Community Survey 2006–2010 5-year estimates, shows that California mirrors the national average (11%), but there is a large disparity in the areas of poverty across the counties:

Tulare County (county seat: Visalia) has more than 33% of children who live at that level of poverty, compared with 1.4 % in Marin County. In Del Norte County (county seat: Crescent City), 30% of children live in impoverished neighborhoods, as do 1 in 4 children residing in Kern (27%) and Merced (25%) counties.  The city of Fresno, which ranked 5th among the largest US cities with high levels of concentrated poverty, has nearly four times (43%) as many children living in high-need neighborhoods than the state average. Long Beach also has high numbers of children living in areas of concentrated poverty (30%), higher than Los Angeles (25%) and Oakland (21%).

What the numbers show is that it varies a lot throughout the state,” said Ted Lempertabove, president of Oakland-based Children Now, which conducted the California data analysis.

Lempert is a lecturer in Political Science at University of California, Berkeley, founding CEO of EdVoice, a nonprofit grassroots network, and was a State Assembly member (San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties) from 1996 to 2000 and 1988 to 1992.

“There are big cities and counties where very high concentrations of kids live in poverty, and what we see in terms of health and education is that kids who live in these areas have much greater barriers to success and access to health care and education.”

The new report also noted that there are some promising strategies for reducing these numbers. For example, the development of mixed-income housing in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood includes investments in local early childhood development and education programs for children. Cassandra Joubert, director of the Central California Children’s Institute at Fresno State University, said the Fresno numbers can be explained by factors such as economic opportunity, education and immigration.

Joubert added that education plays a role, too. "We in the (Central) valley have the highest dropout rates and the lowest college matriculation rates in the state,” she said. “For those jobs that require a higher education and provide better wages, our kids can’t compete. 

Written for California's Children by Elizabeth J Carlyle.