Colorado is one of 29 states to show progress in kids living in concentrated poverty; overall poverty rate stays flat and progress on kids’ coverage stalls

Written by: Sarah Hughes
Date Posted: September 27, 2019

This week was a big one for data releases, with a new report on concentrated poverty from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and new poverty and health insurance numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The number of children living in concentrated poverty fell faster in Colorado than in almost any other state in the country in recent years, according to Children Living in High Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods,” a new KIDS COUNT® data snapshot released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Using the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the snapshot examines where concentrated poverty has worsened across the country despite a long period of national economic expansion.

On average, between 2013 and 2017, 5 percent of Colorado kids lived in areas of concentrated poverty, down from a peak of 9 percent between 2008 and 2012. The number of Colorado kids living in areas of concentrated poverty fell by nearly half between these two time periods; in comparison, the number of children living in concentrated poverty nationwide fell by only 9 percent. Colorado was one of 29 states to see a decrease in the share of children in concentrated poverty. Despite the improvement, nearly 60,000 Colorado kids still lived in an area of concentrated poverty according to the most recent estimates available.

The Census Bureau also released data this week from the American Community Survey that shows overall child poverty in Colorado remained flat at 11.9 percent in 2018, which was not a statistically significant decrease from 12 percent in 2017. The survey also found that the percentage of Colorado kids under age 19 without health insurance remained relatively flat in 2018 at 4.6 percent, compared to 4.3 percent in 2017. This trend is discouraging because they indicate Colorado’s historic progress on kids’ health coverage has stalled in the face of federal efforts that have put out an “unwelcome mat” for Latino children in particular. We’ll do a deeper dive into these important new data in next week’s KidsFlash.

Growing up in a community of concentrated poverty—a neighborhood where 30 percent or more of the population is living in poverty—is one of the greatest risks to child development. More than 8.5 million U.S. children live in these settings, which is nearly 12 percent of all children in the United States. Children in high-poverty neighborhoods tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality, and toxins such as lead. Financial hardships and fear of violence can cause chronic stress linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And when these children grow up, they are more likely to have lower incomes than children who have relocated away from communities of concentrated poverty.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a community with great schools, safe places to play, reliable transportation and good job opportunities for their parents,” said Sarah Hughes, Vice President of Research at the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “But with 60,000 Colorado kids still living in high-poverty, low-opportunity communities, it’s clear that we have more work to do to ensure that every child can grow up in a community with the resources needed to help them and their families thrive.”

The “Children Living in Concentrated Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods” snapshot shows that leaders still need to confront the far-reaching effects of racial inequities and inequality. Children of color and children in immigrant families in Colorado are much more likely to live in a community of concentrated poverty than their peers as a result of legacies of racial and ethnic oppression as well as present-day laws, practices and stereotypes that disproportionately affect people of color. American Indian children and black or African-American children in Colorado are most likely to live in concentrated poverty, with 12 percent of all American Indian children and 11 percent of all black or African-American children living in a high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhood, compared to 2 percent of white children.

“These inequities show that historical policies and practices designed to segregate neighborhoods and create barriers to wealth for communities of color are still having an enormous impact on the opportunities available to children of color today,” Hughes said. “If we want all of our children to reach their full potential, we have to work harder to create a state where a child’s race doesn’t predict the type of neighborhood she lives in or the opportunities available to her outside her front door.”

Other key national findings from the snapshot include:

  • Overall, urban areas have both the largest number and share of children living in concentrated poverty: 5.4 million, or 23 percent of all kids in cities. About 11 percent of kids (1.2 million) in rural areas live in poor communities, while 5 percent of suburban kids (2 million) do.
  • States in the South and West tend to have high rates of children living in concentrated poverty, making up 17 of 25 states with rates of 10 percent and above.
  • African American and American Indian children are seven times more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than white children and Latino children are nearly five times more likely, largely as a result of legacies of racial and ethnic oppression as well as present-day laws, practices and stereotypes that disproportionately affect people of color.

The Colorado Children’s Campaign joins the Annie E. Casey Foundation in calling on national, state and local stakeholders to act now to help families lift themselves out of these circumstances. Policies at the community, county and state level can have a significant impact on the lives of children in struggling families. In Colorado, policy recommendations for improving housing security were recently outlined in a report from the Colorado Health Institute.

Sarah Hughes

About Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Vice President of Research Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she leads the organization’s research and data analysis efforts, including the development and publication of the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report, and provides research and data support to inform and advance the Children’s Campaign’s policy agenda. She also co-chairs the organization’s internal Equity Team. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah worked in communications and spent several years working and volunteering with kids in various capacities. She holds a Master of Social Work with a specialization in Advocacy, Leadership and Social Change from the University of Illinois and a B.S. in Business and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Denver with her husband and their two crazy dogs.