September 13, 2009

Recessions and child poverty

Random animal picture.

Census figures released last week showed that the poverty rate increased to 13.2 percent in 2008. The actual number of people living in poverty now is 39.8 million. The rate hasn't been that high since 1997 and the numbers haven't been that high since 1960.

This doesn't reflect the worst of the recession, which didn't really hit what I hope is bottom until this year. This probably won't surprise anybody, but poverty rates tend to spike along with unemployment rates. As noted here last week, things would have been a lot worse without the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), but states need to act to take advantage of its provisions.

Child poverty is especially likely to increase during recessions. This is serious since even temporary childhood poverty can have long lasting consequences.

To use West Virginia as an example, a new report by the WV Center on Budget and Policy finds that,

Based on an analysis of previous recessions, one in four West Virginians is expected to fall into poverty during the current recession. The number of state children living in poverty is estimated to increase by more than a third to 130,585, or 34.4 percent. Each one-percent increase in the unemployment rate is projected to raise the number of West Virginia children in poverty by about 8,000. The increase is of particular concern because of the harmful and long-lasting effects of poverty – even temporary poverty –on children...

The report cites a longitudinal study of child poverty which found that children who became poor during recessions had vastly different outcomes than their peers who were never poor. They had median incomes that were 30 percent lower; were three times as likely to still be poor; were less likely to finish high school or college; and were less likely to report being in good or excellent health.

The report recommends taking full advantage of ARRA by accessing emergency contingency TANF funds to provide increased or temporary assistance. These funds can also be used to subsidize employment programs. Other measures states can take include maximizing Medicaid participation, modernizing unemployment insurance by extending benefits to people currently excluded from the system, and expanding Childrens Health Insurance Program benefits.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, WV's fiscal health is better than most states these days, which may make it easier to take advantage of some of the opportunities mentioned above.

COAL WARS. Here's an op-ed by yours truly on coalfield conflicts then and now.

LEFT OUT. Non profit groups are not happy about being left out of current health care reform proposals.



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