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Report finds poverty afflicts children in communities of all sizes.

More than one in four children in U.S. cities with populations above 100,000 are living in poverty according to new data published by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF).

"Extraordinarily high levels of child poverty have become pervasive in America," said CDF president Marian Wright Edelman.

The new data show that the twenty cities with the highest child poverty rates in 1989 were disparate in size and geography. Cities with the highest child poverty rates included not only places like Detroit, New Orleans and Miami, but also smaller cities like Laredo, Tex; Rochester, N.Y.; and Shreveport, La.

The report, the first city-by-city count of poor children since the 1980 Census, analyzed published and unpublished official data from the 1990 U.S. Census of Income and Housing and comparable data from the 1980 Census.

According to the report, child poverty became more pervasive around the nation and less concentrated in a few large cities. For example, the 40 countries with the highest child poverty rates in the nation in 1989 were all rural (non-metropolitan) counties. The overall poverty rate for children who did not live in cities with populations over 100,000 rose from 13.8 percent in 1979 to 15.4 percent 1989.

In calculating trends, CDF examined the 100 largest cities from the 1980 Census. The total child poverty rate for these 100 largest cities rose from 24.8 percent in 1979 to 28.0 percent in 1989. The child poverty rate in 84 of the 100 cities increased during the 1980s. In 15 cities it declined; it remained the same in Philadelphia.

The child poverty rates for minority children reached startling extremes in 1989. In 31 cities, half or more of the Black children were poor, in 19 cities half or more of the Native American children were poor, in 10 cities half or more of the Hispanic children were poor, and in eight cities half or more of the Asian American children were poor.

Poverty is Colorblind, Rural, Suburban and Urban

As alarming as the poverty rates for urban minorities are, however CDF's Edelman is urging a broad look at poverty among all children. "Americans tend to believe that our nation's poor children are overwhelmingly urban and minority," said Edelman.

"This stereotype hurts millions of needy rural, suburban and white children because it has allowed us to ignore their needs. And it hurts urban minority children because it makes it easier for many Americans to imagine that child poverty is alien, unique to cities or unique to other racial or ethnic groups and to scapegoat these other groups."

* In reality, CDF reported, only one in three poor children in 1989 (36 percent) lived in a city with a population over 100,000. Only one in six poor children in 1989 (17 percent) was a black child living in one of these cities.

In addition, the average poor family with children has just 2.2 children, and the number has been declining rapidly. And nearly two-thirds of the poor families with children work during the year. Poor families receive more income from work than from welfare.


The Children's Defense Fund urged several recommendations to prevent and alleviate increasing child poverty:

* Enact the Downey/Panetta Children's Initiative, which was passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation will help states and cities strengthen and preserve families while protecting children from child abuse and neglect. The Children's Initiative also will provide essential increases in food stamp assistance to hungry children, providing a stronger economic foundation for the millions of poor families with children who reside in urban areas.

Provide immediate private sector and government measures to increase access to jobs that pay wages adequate to support a family--including increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit; raising the minimum wage; and expanding proven youth employment programs.

* Implement local initiatives that link city government, business and community leaders to improve education, help young people make the transition from school to work, and enable low-income families to benefit from economic development plans.

* Enforce more strongly absent parent's child support obligations, and support a proposal by U.S. Reps Thomas Downey (D-NY) and Henry Hyde (R-IL) that will establish a new national system of child support to track missed or inadequate child support payments.

* Enact a refundable child tax credit to ensure that every family has a basic level of economic security.

Copies of the reports on urban and state-by-state child poverty are available for $5 from the Children's Defense Fund located at 25 E Street, NW, Washington DC 20001, telephone (202) 628-8787.
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Author:Clark, Valarie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 17, 1992
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