California Bucks Trend in Child Poverty

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A child waits at the Imperial Valley Food Bank  in El Centro, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)
A child waits at the Imperial Valley Food Bank in El Centro, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Children growing up in areas of concentrated poverty are more likely to experience stress, drop out of school, and grow up to be low-income adults. Those are some of the findings of an Annie E. Casey Foundation report released Thursday.

In the last decade, the number of US children living in poor neighborhoods grew by one point six million, according to the study.

California actually bucked the national trend with 107,000 fewer children living in concentrated poverty than there were in 2000.

But some parts of the state have many more high poverty kids than others.

In Oakland, 22 percent of kids live in neighborhoods where a large proportion of families live below the federal poverty line, says Ted Lempert, executive director of Oakland-based Children Now. In the city of Fresno, that number grows to more than 40 percent.


“But we know that if we do some pretty sensible investments in education and kids health which are relatively inexpensive, we won't have reports like this fifteen, twenty years from now,” said Lempert.

Centering those services in schools can help, says Melia Franklin, who runs the Oakland nonprofit PLAN, Parent Leadership Action Network. Franklin says poverty is one of the strongest indicators of failure in school.

“Imagine going to school and trying to get an education when you're hungry, have a toothache, or when your parents are jobless and there are stresses in the family,” said Franklin. “Imagine how difficult that might be.”

All told, more than one million California children live in high poverty areas. The Annie E. Casey study defined concentrated poverty as census tracts where at least thirty percent of families of four live below the federal income threshold of $22,314.