INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana children are growing up healthier than in years past, but more are growing up in poverty, reaching 27.4 percent in Elkhart County in 2011, according to a new report.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book 2013, Indiana had a 20 percent decrease in the rate of child and teen deaths from 2005 to 2010 and a four percent drop during that time in the percentage of babies born at a low birthweight. The state, though, continues to struggle with high rates of child poverty, according to the report, which looks at how children across the 50 states and the District of Columbia are faring, breaking down statistics for economic well-being, family and community, education and health for the nation and each state. In Elkhart County, 16.2 percent of children under age 18 were living in poverty in 2007, according to the Kids Count Data Center. That rose to 18 percent in 2008, the year the economic recession especially hit Elkhart County. The percentage of kids in poverty, though, has continued to rise, hitting 27.4 percent in 2011, the most recent data available. That’s above the state and nation’s percentage of children in poverty, which was 23 percent for both in 2011.
Candy Yoder, CEO and president of Child and Parent Services (CAPS), said that, though unemployment has gone down since 2008, many people finding jobs may not be making much money.
“Low wage and minimum wage jobs don’t lift people out of poverty,” she said.
“Kids growing up in poverty are at such a disadvantage,” she said. “Parents in poverty are so overwhelmed with day-to-day survival” that they aren’t able to give their children the attention they need. Children in poverty are much more likely to be abused or neglected than those not in poverty. They are also less likely to graduate high school and pursue a college education.
“Statistics show that once a family is in poverty, it is incredibly difficult to get out,” because children grow up to have their own families and raise them the way they know, continuing the cycle of poverty, Yoder said.
While the overall 27.4 percent of children living in poverty is high, data is even more striking when it is broken down further, she said. For example, a report by the Indiana Black Expo stated that 69.1 percent of black children age 17 or younger in Elkhart were in poverty in 2010.
Along with more than a quarter of Elkhart County children living in poverty, more than half of the children in the county qualify for free or reduced lunches, since 2009, according to the Kids County Data Center. In 2012, 56.5 percent of kids or 20,081 qualified for free or reduced price lunches.
Overall, the Kids Count Data Book 2013 ranked Indiana 26th in the national for children’s economic well-being, 34th for education, 21st for children’s health and 30th for children’s family and community.
Here are some other points from the data.
Children living in poverty in 2011
27.4 percent, Elkhart County; 23 percent, Indiana; 23 percent, U.S.;
Teen birth rate per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 2010
51.0, Elkhart County; 37, Indiana; 34, U.S.;
Children without insurance in 2011
8 percent, Indiana; 7 percent, U.S.
Teens who abused alcohol or drugs in 2010-2011
6 percent, Indiana; 7 percent, U.S.
High school students not graduating on time in 2010
16.0 percent, Elkhart County; 23 percent, Indiana; 22 percent, U.S.