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Rising Number of Poor Children in Kansas & Missouri


The number of children living in poverty in both Kansas and Missouri is on the rise, according to data gathered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which works to improve conditions for disadvantaged children in the United States.

This trend is significant when it comes to education, because children from disadvantaged families often struggle in school. Earlier this month, the KC Education Enterprise published an article about how children in the metro area who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches do not perform well on standardized tests.

As shown in this bar chart, the rising number of poor children in the Midwest reflects a national trend. Over the last decade, the number of children from families with incomes below $21,756 rose by 18 percent nationwide. This chart is based on information from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s publication, the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book: New Data and State Rankings on Child Well-being.

Missouri has a larger percentage of poor children than Kansas does. However, Kansas’ child poverty rate grew 50 percent over the last decade, while Missouri’s grew by 31 percent.

According to a UNICEF report on child poverty in rich countries, “The evidence from many countries persistently shows that children who grow up in poverty are more vulnerable: specifically, they are more likely to be in poor health, to have learning and behavioural difficulties, to underachieve at school, to become pregnant at too early an age, to have lower skills and aspirations, to be low paid, unemployed, and welfare dependent.”

Twenty-three developed countries — including the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Poland — have lower numbers of disadvantaged children than the United States does. In the Czech Republic, fewer than 10 percent of children live in households where the income is less than half of the national median.

Strategies suggested by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for reducing the child poverty rate include:

  • Building political will to reduce child poverty
  • Make work pay
  • Help low-income families keep more of what they earn
  • Strengthen the safety net
  • Help low-income families build savings and assets.

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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