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Carsey Institute: Child Poverty High in Rural America

By Beth Potier, Media Relations
September 3, 2008

New data indicate that more than 13 million children are living in poverty, 22 percent of rural children and 25 percent of children living in central cities, according to a new report released by the Carsey Institute at UNH. The report, based on U.S. Census Bureau data released Aug. 26, finds that on average, rates of child poverty are persistently higher in rural parts of the country relative to suburban areas and share similar rates with many central cities.

“Because poverty is closely linked to undesirable outcomes in areas such as health, education, emotional welfare, and delinquency, we take child poverty seriously as a measure of children’s well-being,” says report author Sarah Savage, a research assistant at the Carsey Institute and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UNH. The data are based on the official U.S. Office of Management and Budget poverty measure of $21,027 for a family of two adults and two children.

The Carsey report finds that in 17 states, particularly those in the South and Southwest, rural child poverty is higher than rates in both suburban and urban areas. In 2007, the rural child poverty rate in ranges from a low of just 7 percent in Connecticut to a high of 35 percent in Mississippi. Other key findings include:

  • At the national level, the rural child poverty rate is 9 percentage points higher than in suburban areas and approaches the rate in central cities (25 percent).
  • In 17 states, rural child poverty is higher than rates in both suburban and urban areas.
  • In Mississippi, rural poverty exceeds suburban poverty by 18 percentage points, followed by Arizona and South Dakota (15 percentage points), and Louisiana (14 percentage points).
  • Thirteen southern states all have rural child poverty rates above 25 percent in 2007, which reflects the pervasive child poverty problem in the rural South. This trend is consistent with 2005 data.

To download a copy of the report, go to http://www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/publications/FS_RuralChildPoverty_08.pdf.

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