By John Michaelson
Minnesota News Connection
ST. PAUL (Sept. 20, 2013) — The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Minnesota is making some progress in reducing childhood poverty, but it still remains a much larger issue than in the past.
Elaine Cunningham, director of outreach with Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, says the number of Minnesota children living in poverty fell by nearly 10,000 between 2011 and 2012.
“The survey shows that Minnesota is still doing very well compared to other states,” she explains. “But we still have had this, over time, have had this increase in the poverty rate, so we are not doing as well as we were doing at the turn of the century.”
It’s now estimated that nearly 184,000 Minnesota children live in poverty, which is about 70 percent higher than the figure for the year 2000.
Cunningham says part of the issue is that many of the job opportunities that existed before the Great Recession are no longer available for those looking for work.
“Even though the economy is slowly recovering,” she explains, “the jobs that we are seeing, that have been created have been more lower-paying, more seasonal in nature, part-time in nature, and often don’t have the same kind of benefits that we saw before the recession.”
Cunningham adds another major concern is that, while Minnesota generally ranks among the best in the nation for childhood well being, the racial disparity gaps in the state are among the worst.
“We have some of the greatest disparities in our populations of color,” she says. “So even though our overall state numbers are, you know, better when compared to other states, our disparity numbers are not good.”
Cunningham says raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour as some have proposed would help bring more Minnesota families out of poverty.
She also notes that health care reform, with affordable and accessible insurance plans, should also help provide more stability.