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Poor ranking.

THE 14TH ANNUAL KIDS Count Data Book was released last week, and, to the surprise of no one, Arkansas' child-poverty level remains among the nation's highest.

The report appears to get scant attention, especially in Arkansas, where we seem to be used to being ranked near the bottom in most reports.

For the third consecutive year, the state ranks 47th in terms of overall child well being, according to the news release by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the 25-year-old nonprofit that staffs Arkansas Kids Count Coalition.

There have been improvements, to be sure, but not enough to raise the state's ranking.

Here are some of the findings from the latest report:

* 22 percent of the children in the state live in poverty. Nationwide, that figure is 16.3 percent.

* 30 percent of our children are living in families in which neither parent has a full-time, year-round job.

* 208,000 households with children in the state receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. The average credit per household is $2,027.

* 48 percent of low-income households with children pay housing costs that exceed the recommended threshold of 30 percent of the family's income.

* 6 percent of Arkansas children live in. households without a telephone--double the national rate.

* 30 percent of the children live in communities with a high poverty rate. The national rate is 23 percent.

* 66 percent don't have Internet access at home. Nationwide, the figure is 52 percent.

* With 45 percent, Arkansas was a bit behind the national average of 49 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool.

* 38 percent of Arkansas' fourth-grade students scored below basic levels in science, compared with 36 percent nationally.

Not all of the news is disheartening, however.

The state's infant mortality rate improved as did the state's child death rate.

Other areas of improvement are a decrease in teen births and a decline in the number of high school dropouts.

Should the report be dismissed as just another ranking that downgrades the state?

No. These are real children that are suffering right in our own backyards. And there are ways to deal with this problem.

We all know that the poor have to pay more for the basics--food, housing, health care and transportation. It can be a hard obstacle to overcome. Many low-income families are "just one crisis away from economic catastrophe" the report says.

The study suggests public and private initiatives to attract lower-cost competitive mainstream retailers into low-income communities, regulatory reforms that will protect low-income consumers from predatory lenders and financial tools that include education and access to mainstream financial services.

Many children and their parents no longer believe that with hard work they can build a better future. No one. m America should feel that way.
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Title Annotation:child poverty report
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jun 16, 2003
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