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Half of Black, Hispanic Children May Be Poor by 2010

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If current trends continue, half of all black and Hispanic children will be poor by 2010, a Tufts University study concludes.

"Poverty will be the rule rather than the exception for the two largest racial and ethnic minorities in the country--and it will grow significantly among white children as well,'' said J. Larry Brown, the director of the Center on Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition Policy at Tufts University.

"We are producing impairments in our children at a time when we are trying to protect families and improve the productivity and competitiveness of the nation,'' he added.

The study, based on an analysis of Census data, projects that, by 2010, 49.2 percent of Hispanic children and 51.7 percent of black children will be poor. The proportion of white children in poverty, now 16 percent, will rise to 22 percent, it predicts.

Between 1973 and 1992, the report notes, the number of American children who were poor rose by 4.4 million. The poverty rate rose by 65 percent for white children, 14 percent for black children, and 39.6 percent for Hispanic children.

While a higher proportion of black children were found to be poor in 1992 than were children in any other group, the study notes that an increase of 1.58 million poor Hispanic children between 1973 and 1992 amounted to a 116 percent jump.

The report attributes the increase to growth in the total number of Hispanic children and in the proportion of Hispanic workers in jobs with low earnings.

'Two Separate Countries'

"American children are being divided into two separate countries,'' Mr. Brown said. "In one, there are youngsters in households with resources which, though shrinking, are enough to keep them and their families out of poverty.''

"But for children in the other America,'' he added, "the day-to-day reality is poverty, with all the desperation that accompanies it.''

The report contends that trends in child poverty historically have been "linked with and susceptible to government policy,'' and it suggests that the right combination of economic and social policies could improve the outlook for children.

The report urges strategies to help working parents earn enough to stay out of poverty, including expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and raising the minimum wage. It also recommends bolstering child-care, health-care, and food-assistance programs for needy children.

Copies of the report, "Two Americas: Racial Differences in Child Poverty in the U.S.,'' are available for $6 each from the Center on Hunger, Poverty, and Nutrition Policy, Tufts University School of Nutrition, 11 Curtis Ave., Medford, Mass. 02155.

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