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Number of kids living in high-poverty areas of NC soars

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Two-fold increase since 2000

According to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the number of North Carolina children living in high-poverty areas has increased almost 200 percent to 212,000. That number is eight times the increase nationwide since the year 2000.

High-poverty communities are defined as areas where 30 percent or more of residents live below the poverty line. In some counties, more than half of all children in the county live surrounded by poverty. For example, 54 percent of kids in Vance county live in such areas.

Click here for an interactive look at North Carolina children in high-poverty communities.

These statistics are alarming because research shows that, even when controlling for how much income a family earns, families in high-poverty areas struggle more to meet basic needs. According to the report, these families:

"...are more likely to face food hardship, have trouble paying their housing costs, and lack health insurance than those living in more affluent areas. Children living in areas of concentrated poverty are also more likely to experience harmful levels of stress and severe behavioral and emotional problems than children overall."

Laila Bell, director of research and data for Action for Children NC, told Public News Service that unemployment is not the only factor driving up these numbers:

"Even for children that live in households where someone is currently working, they may be living in these communities or areas where there's this high concentration of the number of people in poverty."

That the number of North Carolina children living in high-poverty areas has increased so dramatically over the last decade fits a disturbing trend in the United States, where income inequality has exploded over the last 30 years. These days, according to U.S. Census data, nearly 1 in 2 Americans live in poverty or scrape by just above the poverty line.

One of the recommendations of the Casey Foundation to alleviate the increasing concentration of children in high-poverty areas is to improve access to early childhood education, which is one reason why it is unfortunate that state lawmakers plan to restrict eligibility for kids to be able to participate in North Carolina's Pre-K program.

The NC State AFL-CIO, a member of The Covenant with North Carolina's Children, opposes such efforts by our out-of-control state legislature to turn access to quality public education into a function of privilege instead of a constitutional right.