Report: Children Living in High-Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods

by Tracy Greever-Rice, Program Director, Missouri Kids Count

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released a data snapshot in late September documenting trends in the experience of children living in neighborhoods in which 30% or more of the population is living in poverty. Approximately 12% of children in the United States, or 8.5 million kids, live in these settings, increasing their risks of developmental delays and well-being. Children living in high poverty neighborhoods are less likely than other children to have access to healthy food, quality schools, reliable access to health care, and stable, safe housing. And children living in concentrated poverty areas are more likely to remain poor as adults.

This report, drawn primarily from U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data, finds that between the two 5-year period estimates of 2008-2012 and 2013-2017, Missouri saw a slight proportional decrease in both the percent and number of children living in concentrated poverty. In the latter period approximately nine percent of, or 121,000, Missouri children lived in areas of concentrated poverty compared to 10% of, or 136,000, children in the earlier period. Comparatively, of surrounding states, only Nebraska has experienced an increase in the percent of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, while almost 20% fewer of Arkansas’s kids live in these areas.

While the overall percent of Missouri children living in concentrated poverty has declined, the experience of Missouri’s children has varied by key demographics such as race and age, and geographic location. The percent of white, non-Hispanic children in Missouri has ticked up from 4% to 5% between the study periods, while the percent of black children living in neighborhoods with 30% or more of households in poverty has declined from 33% in the 2008-2012 to 28% in the 2013-2017 period. Very young children (ages 0-4) are less likely to live in concentrated poverty areas than in the earlier period, whereas the percent of older children and young adults (ages 5-24) has remained generally consistent in Missouri.

Children living in Kansas City and the city of St. Louis (U.S. Census Bureau-defined principle city of metropolitan areas) are slightly less likely to live in concentrated poverty (30% in 2008-2012/27% in 2013-2017) than they were in the past, though over 75,000 children are included in this estimate. However, both the number and percent of children living in concentrated poverty in non-metropolitan areas has increased modestly from 26,000 to 29,000 (8% to 9%).

The Casey Foundation urges leaders — from the national and state level to counties, cities and other local settings — to act now to help families lift themselves out of these circumstances. Policies at the community, county and state levels that can have a significant impact on the lives of children in struggling families include:

  • Ending housing discrimination based on whether a person was formerly incarcerated or is using a federal housing voucher.
  • Expanding workforce training that is targeted to high-poverty, low-opportunity communities.
  • Developing and funding small-business loan programs that serve entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color — or people that traditional lenders tend to reject, such as individuals with poor credit or criminal records.

For additional information, the Annie E. Casey Data Snapshot can be found at the following URL:

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