SALT LAKE CITY – A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the number of children living in concentrated poverty in Utah has dropped to 2%. Concentrated poverty means a neighborhood where a third or more of the people are living in poverty.
That’s down from last year’s rate of 3%. The number of children living in concentrated poverty in Utah has declined by more than half over the past decade.
Terry Haven with Voices for Utah Children said it’s still a problem.
“It also means that there’s still 22,000 kids who are living in those areas. 22,000 children is still a lot of kids,” Haven said.
Nationally, 12% of children are currently living in concentrated poverty.
The overall childhood poverty rate in Utah has dropped to 9.5% according to the Census Bureau. That number hasn’t been seen since in Utah since before the Great Recession.
The state’s strong economy may be the reason poverty has dropped significantly, however, Haven says stagnant wages and the rising cost of housing are not helping.
The majority of children in concentrated poverty live in cities, but the problem disproportionately affects Native American children, who usually live on reservations or in rural areas.
“One of the main areas of concern is our Native American children. Twenty-four percent of those children are living in concentrated poverty,” Haven says.
She believes severe poverty has a major impact on the lives of children.
“Children in high poverty neighborhoods tend to lack access to healthy foods and quality medical care. They often face greater exposures to environmental hazards and led and toxic air quality.”
Haven said because so few children are in poverty in Utah, Utahns have the power to make a change.
“If we want to do something about it, it’s not as huge a problem.”
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