PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island had the highest child poverty rate in New England in 2013 at 21.5 percent, with Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket having the highest rates in the state, according to Rhode Island Kids Count.
Kids Count executives discussed the negative effects of poverty, and how they are immediate and long-lasting, in the organization’s latest issue brief.
Details of the brief were expected to be discussed Thursday at a policy roundtable at Kids Count’s headquarters with policy makers, state agency leaders and community members.
Woonsocket had the highest child poverty rate at 42.8 percent, followed by Central Falls, 41.1 percent; Providence, 39.7 percent; and Pawtucket, 28.9 percent.
Kids Count said the effects of poverty last well beyond childhood, into adolescence and adulthood. Poverty is linked to chronic, toxic stress, which they said negatively impacts early brain development.
Kids Count said children living in poverty, especially for extended time periods, are more likely to have physical and behavioral health problems, live in food insecure households, have difficulty in school, become teen parents, earn less as adults and be unemployed more frequently.
“Because living in poverty negatively impacts children now, and far into their future, it’s critical that we have both short-term and long-term strategies for children and families to succeed,” Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, said in a statement.
“In the short term, we need to support crucial programs and services that reduce the negative effects of poverty on our children and families,” she said.
She said nutrition assistance programs such as the supplemental nutrition assistance program for women, infants and children, and school meals help ensure that children in poverty receive the healthy food they need to learn and grow. She said it’s also important to improve the education levels and job skills of parents, such as increasing investments in general equivalency diploma programs.
According to Kids Count, in 2013, 21.5 percent (44,293) of Rhode Island’s 208,700 children under 18 lived below the federal poverty threshold.
During the recession, the percentage of child poverty increased in the Ocean State and across the country, and child poverty rates have not returned to pre-recession levels, a press release from Kids Count said.
Poverty data is based on the federal poverty threshold, which was an income of $18,769 for a family of three with two children, and $23,624 for a family of four with two children in 2013.
Families with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty threshold are considered to be living in extreme poverty. In 2013, the extreme poverty level was $9,385 for a family of three with two children and $11,812 for a family of four with two children. In 2013, an estimated 9 percent (19,262) of all children in Rhode Island lived in extreme poverty.
Kids Count also said that of all children living in poverty in Rhode Island between 2011 and 2013, 53 percent were white, 16 percent were black and 3 percent were Asian. Twenty percent reported “some other race” and 7 percent were two or more races. Hispanic children may be included in any race category, and between 2011 and 2013, 47 percent of Rhode Island’s poor children were Hispanic, Kids Count said.