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Report: More U.S. children live in poverty

Herschel Barthelemy sits outside the FEMA trailer he lives in with six other children May 11, 2009 in Port Sulphur, La.

Kai Ryssdal: There was a grim picture of the recession's impact on children out today from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Twenty percent of children in this country lived in poverty in 2009. That's one in five kids.

And that's just the official number. A more realistic view of what it takes to get by nowadays puts that figure at more than 40 percent. Marketplace's Amy Scott has more.


Amy Scott: Last year, nearly eight million children had at least one parent looking for work. That's 11 percent of kids, and twice the number before the recession started in 2007.

Laura Speer: The state that leads the pack is Nevada. Sixteen percent of children in Nevada had a least one unemployed parent.

The Casey Foundation's Laura Speer says Nevada also leads the pack for children affected by foreclosure. Thirteen percent of kids in the state have lost their homes due to unpaid mortgages. And that doesn't include renters.

Fuilala Riley: You know what surprises me is that it's that low.

Fuilala Riley is with HELP of Southern Nevada. The group assists families facing joblessness and foreclosure. While parents may recover, the effects on children can be lasting. Experts say they're less likely to finish high school and to escape poverty as adults. In Southern Nevada, Riley says half of kids don't graduate.

Riley: It's hard for a student to stay focused in getting good grades when they don't know where they're going to sleep that night, or they don't know where their next meal is coming from.

There are some glimmers of progress.

Linda Southward is director of Mississippi Kids Count. She says the state reduced infant mortality and teen birth rates, and the percentage of teens not in school. But when it comes to the overall well-being of children, Mississippi has been at the bottom of the list for a decade.

Linda Southward: When you have that visual of runners at the starting gate, Mississippi is not on the starting line.

The Casey report does propose some solutions, like programs to prevent foreclosure and subsidized child care and health insurance. This at a time when governments are cutting back everywhere.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.
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Thanks for this story. These are shocking statistics, and when it comes to measuring the health of our economy and our society, these are the numbers that we should be paying attention to, not the GDP or the DOW. We have no right to claim the mantle of leader of the free world when we have such dire conditions for our own citizens.

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