Report shows many more Iowa kids live in high-poverty neighborhoods

The number of Iowa children living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty more than doubled over the last decade, according to a new report.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation supported the KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot, which was released today.

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) show that about 7.9 million, or 11 percent, of the nation’s children are growing up in areas where at least 30 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level-about $22,000 per year for a family of four. In 2000, 6.3 million kids, or 9 percent, were living in such communities, which often lack access to resources that are critical to healthy growth and development, including quality education, medical care and safe outdoor spaces.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf). Nationwide, the number of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods increased by about 25 percent over the past decade. Iowa was one of many states in which the number of children living in such neighborhoods more than doubled during the period studied. Data indicate that about 11,000 Iowa children (2 percent) lived in high-poverty neighborhoods in the year 2000. Between 2006 and 2010, that number was estimated at 27,000 Iowa children.

A family that resides in a high-poverty neighborhood may be above the poverty line in terms of income. However,

research has shown that even when family income is held constant, families living in areas of concentrated poverty are more likely to struggle to meet their children’s basic material needs. They are more likely to face food hardship, have trouble paying their housing costs, and lack health insurance than those living in more affluent areas. Children living in areas of concentrated poverty are also more likely to experience harmful levels of stress and severe behavioral and emotional problems than children overall.1

These problems can affect a child’s ability to succeed in school. In fact, students in predominately low-income schools have lower test scores than those who attend predominately higher-income schools, regardless of their family’s income. They are also more likely to drop out. 2 In addition, growing up in a high-poverty neighborhood undermines a child’s chances of adult economic success. Studies have shown that for children in middle- and upper-income families, living in a high-poverty neighborhood raises the chances of falling down the income ladder as an adult by 52 percent, on average.3

The Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center compiles the KIDS COUNT research in Iowa for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Iowa KIDS COUNT coordinator Michael Crawford discussed the new findings with the Public News Service:

Places where 30 percent or more of the residents are below the federal poverty line are classified as communities of concentrated poverty. Crawford says even if a family living in a distressed area does not meet the federal criteria for poverty, there are still risks for kids.

“There’s more chance of gang activity or drug-related activity that kids would experience, and there are less business opportunities and less employment opportunities for adults there. The kids see that; they see the neighborhood they are in, as opposed to what it should be like.”

He says Iowa has three main areas where children are growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty: Waterloo area, Davenport community and Des Moines metropolitan area.

The Child and Family Policy Center recently released a more detailed report on children’s well-being in Iowa. A nearly 45 percent increase in the child poverty rate was one of the low points. Click here (pdf) to view the number and percentage of children living in poverty in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

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