School & District Management

Neighborhood Poverty Deepens in 10 States, and Children of Color Bear the Brunt

By Sarah D. Sparks — September 24, 2019 1 min read
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More than 8.5 million American children—many of color—come not only from families struggling to make ends meet, but from neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Based on census data and information from the foundation’s annual Kids Count database, the report shows that as of 2017, 12 percent of students lived in census tracts in which at least 30 percent of families earned $24,858 a year or less to support two adults and two children.

That’s an 8 percent decline since the immediate aftermath of the 2008 recession, but gaps among states are wider. While 29 states saw clustering of low-income families from 2008 to 2017, 11 states have made no progress, and 10 states have seen their concentrations of poverty deepen: Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In Louisiana, for example, 1 in 5 children lives in an area of concentrated poverty. (Puerto Rico, while not a state, also saw deepening poverty.)

“Following such a long period of national economic growth, we should see widespread poverty reduction for more communities,” Lisa Hamilton, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “It is imperative that we implement policies to revitalize the children and families that remain left behind.”

In particular, children of color are significantly more likely to live in highly disadvantaged communities; black and Native American students are seven times more likely to live in concentrated poverty than white students, the report found:

Studies have shown clustering low-income families in the same neighborhoods increases the likelihood that children will be exposed to violence or other traumas, and reduces their access to libraries, green space and other resources that support students outside of school.

Moreover, pockets of low-income areas make it more likely that schools and even districts will become segregated, isolating students even further. A new Stanford University study finds differences in income-related education opportunities like these help explain test-score gaps between black and white students.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.

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