Why is it so important to work with at-risk children?

More children living in poverty now than during recession

Jennifer Calfas , USA TODAY 7:35 p.m. EDT July 21, 2015

Living below the poverty line reduces brain volume in areas associated with learning, according to a new joint study from three universities. 

A higher percentage of children live in poverty now than did during the Great Recession, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

About 22% of children in the U.S. lived below the poverty line in 2013, compared with 18% in 2008, the foundation's 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Human and Health Service's official poverty line was $23,624 for a family with two adults and two children. 

“The fact that it’s happening is disturbing on lots of levels,” said Laura Speer, the associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, a non-profit based in Baltimore. “Those kids often don’t have the access to the things they need to thrive.” The foundation says its mission is to help low-income children in the U.S. by providing grants and advocating for policies that promote economic opportunity.

The report examined data from several federal agencies ranging from 2008 to 2013 to assess state-by-state trends of 16 factors of children's well-being, including economics, education, health and family and community. It found that one in four children — a total of 18.7 million kids — lived in low-income households in 2013; low-income families were defined as those who use more than 30% of their pre-tax income for housing.

However, the numbers are from 2013, and Speer said the outcome may be different now that the unemployment rate has lowered to 5.3%; it was 7.5% in June 2013.  Speer said more employed parents would naturally lead to fewer impoverished kids, but she doubted it would change the number of children in low-income neighborhoods.  “It’s a much bigger issue that’s happening relating to residential segregation, the cost of housing and other factors,” Speer said.

The report also examined racial disparities between children living in low-income households. Black, Hispanic and American Indian children were more than twice as likely to live in poverty than white children, the report said. Deirdre Bloome, an assistant professor of sociology and faculty associate at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, said racial segregation by income and housing  occurs because of economic differences for individual families.

She said people often live as adults in the same neighborhood where they grew up, making it difficult to achieve upward mobility and desegregated areas.  “Where you grew up is similar to where you end up when you’re an adult,” Bloome said. “That helps perpetuate racial segregation.”


The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation has helpfully provided data and demographics for the Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania area. Many thanks to them for their care and work for the community!

Wilkinsburg borough

There is also helpful information on the Wilkinsburgpa.gov site, with a good breakdown of Wilkinsburg demographic information