More Kids Are Living in Poverty and Exposed to Air Pollution

Monday, August 06, 2012
Homeless Family in San Diego (photo-Tamandra Michaels, Heart Dog Studios)
The state of America’s children is a decidedly mixed bag, according to a newly released federal report, as the Great Recession continues to take a toll on the youngest Americans. On the plus side, teen pregnancy and violent crime against children have fallen substantially, but on the negative side almost one out of every four American children are living in poverty and more are being exposed to air pollution, which is known to damage health.
Issued by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the annual report, “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” brings together statistics on myriad issues affecting the lives and well-being of children from disparate sources. The data is derived from 22 federal agencies and private research institutions. This year’s report sets forth data from 2010.
Perhaps the best news in the report concerns the continuing decline in violent crime perpetrated on kids. In 2010, fewer 12-to-17-year-olds were victims of violent crime than in 2009. The rate dropped from 11 out of 1,000 kids in 2009 to seven out of 1,000 in 2010, continuing a long-term trend since 1990, when 40 out of 1,000 kids in this age group were victims of a violent crime. The trauma of violence can permanently affect a child’s development in negative ways, according to child development experts.
Preliminary data also showed a decrease in teen pregnancies from 20 per 1,000 girls age 15 to 17 in 2009 to 17 per 1,000 in 2010. This decline, which was present for all ethnic groups, is especially important to the future economic and personal welfare of girls as they become women, as it is well established that teen pregnancy tends to lead to lower educational attainment, less income and a cycle of poverty.
Regarding poverty, however, the news was disappointing, though not surprising given the fragile state of the American economy, and especially the persistence of high unemployment. In 2010, 22% of American kids were living in poverty, up only one point since 2009, but six points higher than the historic low of 16% in 2001. The effects of the recession continue, but the long-term consequences are even more worrisome, as studies have shown that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to remain in poor as adults.
Another instance of regress appears regarding the issue of the environment and children’s health. “In 2010,” the report states, “67% of children up to age 17 lived in counties with pollutant concentrations above the levels of one or more current air quality standards, an increase of 8% from 2009, but down from 77% in 2003.” High air pollutant concentrations are associated with numerous health problems, both immediate and longer-term, especially respiratory ills like asthma.
-Matt Bewig
Federal Report: Fewer Kids Are Victims of Violent Crime, but More Are Poor (by Susan Ferriss, The Center for Public Integrity)
America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics)



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