A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New report shows 16 percent of Kentucky’s children are growing up in concentrated poverty


By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

The economy may have bounced back from the Great Recession, but that hasn’t helped the 163,000 Kentucky children living in concentrated poverty, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Patricia Tennen, chief operating officer of Kentucky Youth Advocates, says stagnant wages, rising housing costs and lack of job opportunities for parents, especially in rural counties, keep many families impoverished.

Around 163,000 Kentucky children live in areas of concentrated poverty, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Photo from Adobe Stock, via PNS).

“You know, we have historical trends of childhood poverty in Kentucky, especially in the coalfields, where you have much higher unemployment rates,” says Tennen. “We know that it took a much longer time for Kentucky to recover from the Great Recession than other states.”

The number of children living in poverty in Kentucky has remained relatively unchanged since 2008, according to the report.

The Casey Foundation’s Associate State Director of Advocacy Scot Spencer says across the country, poverty has worsened in many states, despite the so-called economic expansion.

“No children should be living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty,” says Spencer. “The fact that we still have 8.5 million children after multiple years of economic expansion and growth should not be a satisfactory solution for anyone in the United States.”

Tennen points out that low-income households could benefit from legislation that makes it easier for parents to work.

“We would like Congress to take final steps to increase funding for child-care assistance, to allow more parents to access high-quality affordable care while they work,” says Tennen. “We think state leaders can curb predatory lending practices to prevent families from living from paycheck to paycheck and falling into a debt trap.”

According to a report by Tennen’s organization, low-income Kentucky families are 21% more likely to have taken out a payday loan or other short-term, high-cost loan, compared with just 3% of wealthier families.


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