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State Child Poverty Growth Continues to Outpace U.S.

By Todd Engdahl, EDUCATION NEWS COLORADO

The number of Colorado children living in poverty continues to grow faster than the national rate, the Colorado Children’s Campaign announced Tuesday in its annual “Kids Count” report.

From 2000 to 2008 there was a 72 percent increase in the number of Colorado children in poverty. An estimated 15 percent of state children, about 179,000, fall into that category. Only Colorado and Nevada saw increases of more than 61 percent over those eight years.

That growth in poverty contrasts with Colorado’s ranking of 22nd in the nation in overall child well being, as calculated by national Kids Count data. Colorado ranks 18th in the nation for the number of children in poverty.

The study marks the third year that Kids Count has focused on child poverty. The 2008 and 2009 reports found a similar growth trend.

A review of past data indicates that the percentage of poor children grew most rapidly from 2000 to 2004, from 9.2 percent to 14.2 percent, with some slowing after that. The rate was 15.7 percent in 2007, compared to 2008’s 15 percent. The report uses U.S. Census data and therefore lags behind.

Chris Watney, president of the Children’s Campaign, noted during a Capitol news conference that the 2008 data doesn’t include the most serious impacts of the recession, raising concerns about what next year’s report may find.

“One of the most concerning trends,” Watney said of the latest report, is growth of the poverty gap by ethnic background and region.

The report found that black and Hispanic children are twice as likely to live in poverty than white children. This year’s study also examined the geographic distribution of poverty, finding the increase in the number of poor children is suburban counties has been more than double that of Denver.

“These shifts in poverty create an increased demand for services in our suburban areas. Unfortunately, the resources have not increased in proportion to the demand,” Watney said.

Gov. Bill Ritter and Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien also spoke at Tuesday’s news conference. Both expressed concerns about the report’s findings and also made a point of urging defeat of three initiatives on the November ballot, numbers 60, 61 and 101, which would set lower revenue limits on state and local government, ban government borrowing and limit property taxes.

Passage of those “would really impact our ability to keep working on children’s issues,” O’Brien said.

The Kids Count report is produced annually and provides state and county-level data on a number of indicators of child well being, including heath, educational achievement and economic status. The state report is part of a national effort of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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