Minnesota Child Poverty Rate Holds Steady – With Exceptions

Minnesota Child Poverty Rate Holds Steady – With Exceptions Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota had 15,000 fewer children living in poverty in 2017 compared with 2012, but children remain the poorest age group in the state, with one in 10 of Minnesota's children experiencing some level of poverty.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation data snapshot shows that in 2017, more than 8 million - or 12% - of U.S. children live below the poverty line. Bharti Wahi, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, says after several years of incremental poverty reduction, the state is now just holding steady.

"I think what we saw was a widening gap, particularly for American Indian children and for Asian children," says Wahi. "We see that there are greater numbers of them living at poverty, and we also see that there's a bit of an increase in extreme poverty."

Wahi says almost 40% of Minnesota's American Indian children - who make up 31% of the state's child population - were poor compared with less than 8% of white children.

Wahi applauds lawmakers for increasing cash grants to families through the state's investment program, but says continued support for health care and food access are critical to reduce concentrated poverty.

"Concentrated poverty" is defined as areas where families of four live on approximately $24,000 dollars per year.

Scot Spencer, associate state director of advocacy with the Casey Foundation, says stagnant wages, rising housing costs and inaccessible job opportunities keep many children and families trapped in poverty.

"There may be housing instability," says Spencer, "where kids may have to move from house to house because the parents or the adults in their lives are forced to make choices between whether they're going to pay rent or pay for heat; or whether they have dinner on the table at night, or they get their medicine that they need."

In addition to lacking healthy food and quality medical care, Spencer notes that children in high-poverty neighborhoods face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality.

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