ST. PAUL, Minn. (Sept. 17, 2015) — According to numbers released today by the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, approximately 12,000 more Minnesota children lived in poverty in 2014 than in 2013. More than half of the increase can be accounted for in the increase in the number of black children in poverty, which increased by 10 percent from 2013 to 2014.
Though the change isn’t statistically significant, the child poverty rate in Minnesota went from 14 percent in 2013 (176,719 children) to 14.9 percent (188,717 children) in 2014. The number of children in poverty has not increased since 2011 when it peaked at 194,000 or 15 percent. The data continue to show that more needs to be done for the economic recovery to be fully realized by lower income families. Though Minnesota has the most job vacancies since 2001, the median wage for those jobs is $12.99 per hour, which at full-time, year-round employment just barely exceeds the poverty threshold* for a family of four.
“Far too many of our state’s future workers are experiencing the negative effects poverty has on child development including precarious access to basic needs and opportunities to learn, grow and explore,” said Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota’s (CDF-MN) Research and Policy Director Stephanie Hogenson. “Recent policy changes like increasing the minimum wage and investing in early education, child care and children’s health coverage are proven strategies to alleviate the effects of poverty and improve economic and health outcomes for Minnesota children. To continue to have a growing economy and productive workforce, Minnesota must stay the course and continue investing in these and other programs that improve child outcomes.”
The state’s youngest children experience poverty at higher rates with 16.9 percent of Minnesota children under age 6 living in poverty – an increase of nearly 11 percent from 2013. Additionally, young children are more likely to live in extreme poverty* with 7.6 percent of Minnesota children under age six in extreme poverty compared to 6.2 percent of all children under 18. Since the early years of a child’s life is when the greatest period of rapid brain development occurs, poverty in these years has a greater effect on children’s development and future outcomes.
“Two-generation solutions that improve parents’ earning potential and increase children’s access to opportunity are critical,” Hogenson said. “One such approach is to fully fund the Child Care Assistance Program because it allows parents to work and ensures children are in a stable child care environment.” Hogenson noted that more than 5,000 families are on the waiting list for the underfunded Child Care Assistance Program, which provides assistance to reduce child care costs for lower income families.
Despite having one of the lowest overall child poverty rates in the country, Minnesota continues to have some of the highest rates of child poverty for children of color and American Indian children. Most staggering is that the number of black children in poverty increased by more than 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, and the number of young black children in poverty increased by 27 percent.
Nationally, the Black child poverty rate also increased by 10 percent between 2013 and 2014. In Minnesota, nearly 45 percent of African American children, 40.6 percent of American Indian children, 18.7 percent of Asian children, 19.9 percent of children of two or more races, and 28.6 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty, compared to 8.7 percent of white children. The total number of white children in Minnesota is declining but the number of children of color continues to grow – 30 percent of Minnesota children under age five are children of color. Sixty percent of the state’s total projected population growth from 2013 to 2035 will be in populations of color.
“While it’s morally imperative to ensure all children, particularly children of color, have a level playing field and access to opportunities to ensure they thrive, our changing demographics demonstrate an economic imperative too,” Hogenson said. “The success of our future workforce and economy depend on the success of all Minnesota children – an increasingly diverse population.”
Ending Child Poverty Now, a national Children’s Defense Fund report released earlier this year, outlined how nine policy changes could reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Minnesota has adopted some of the strategies outlined in the report such as increasing the minimum wage and creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit.
Additional state and federal investments are needed in pro-work tax credits, SNAP benefits, housing subsidies, and child care assistance to reduce poverty and guarantee a stronger future workforce and economy. Data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure also released today by the Census Bureau show the continuing effectiveness of these and other key programs in lifting children and their families above the poverty line.
The poverty measure is the most widely known measure of family economic stability, but the cost of basic needs for a family of four far exceeds the poverty guidelines. CDF-MN estimates that just the cost of basic needs, including food, housing, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities for a healthy standard of living, for a family of four living in the Twin Cities would be nearly $52,000. That’s more than two times the poverty guidelines*.
Nationally, nearly one in five children – 15.5 million – were in poverty in 2014, and children remain the poorest age group in the country. Although there was a drop in the number of children in poverty in the United States from 2014 to 2013, it was not statistically significant.
* Poverty is defined as an annual income below $24,230 for an average family of four, or $2,020 a month, $465 a week, or $66 a day. Extreme poverty is defined as less than half of the annual poverty level, or less than $12,115 for a family of four.