Strong US Economy Bypasses Many Kids: CDF report FWD

Tom Boland (
Thu, 7 May 1998 22:04:38 -0700 (PDT)


  By Woody Baird
  Associated Press Writer
  Monday, May 4, 1998; 7:10 p.m. EDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The percentage of Southern children living in
poverty is about the same as it was in 1969, even though most states in the
region have robust economies and budget surpluses, the Children's Defense
Fund said Monday.

``Equally disturbing is the fact that the rest of the nation is catching up
with the South,'' said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the defense
fund, a Washington-based nonprofit child advocacy group.

In 1996, the West matched the South in the percentage of poor children --
22.9 percent -- the first time another region equaled the South in child
poverty, the group said in a report issued at the beginning of a two-day
strategy meeting.

The defense fund placed the poverty line at $12,516 for a family of three
and $16,036 for a family of four.

The organization said that in 1996, 5.5 million children living in the
16-state South, including Washington, D.C., were poor and 2.6 million lived
in extreme poverty, with incomes of about $120 a week for a family of

In 1969, 22.3 percent of children in families in the South were poor. In
1996, 22.9 percent of all Southern children -- including those in foster
care, living on their own, or with a  non-relative adult -- were living in

The Midwest had the lowest percentage of impoverished children among the
four regions, 11.5 percent, followed by the Northeast with 19.2 percent.

Since 1969, the South has seen a slight rise in the percentage of poor
white children -- 13 percent to 16 percent -- and a decline in the
percentage of poor black children from 49 percent to 40 percent.

Nationally, 20.5 percent of children, or almost 14.5 million, were
classified as poor in 1996. That's up from 14 percent in 1969.

The defense fund and other child advocacy groups are gearing up for a new
push for more federal and state help to reduce child poverty.They want a
commitment from Congress for $20 billion in the next five years for early
childhood education, child care and other such programs.

``The majority of these children live in working families, so ending
welfare as we know it, which has been the political cry in this country,
will not help them,'' Edelman said.

The children can be helped, she said, if their families can get decent
jobs, health care and child care.

The defense fund found 84 of the 100 counties with the highest percentages
of children in poverty are in the South. At the top of the list is Owsley
County, Ky., where 65 percent of children lived below the federal poverty
level in 1993, the latest year available for county figures.

Shannon County, S.D., was the only non-Southern county among to 10 worst
counties, coming in at No. 7, with a child poverty rate of 58.7 percent.


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