A recent report from the U.S Census Bureau found that the portion of New Haven children living in poverty has increased by 17 percent since 2008.
Though poverty is one of New Haven’s most far-reaching and substantial issues, the increasing amount of child poverty in New Haven is not surprising to local leaders. In fact, the U.S Census Bureau’s findings are largely representative of how families are struggly to recover financially after the recession.
The increase in child poverty follows the general family income trend. If this data were broken down geographically, said DataHaven executive director Mark Abraham ’04, there would be even higher rates of poverty in certain New Haven neighborhoods.
Ward 6 Alderman Dolores Colon suggested that although unemployment in New Haven is not particularly high, many parents find that they need multiple jobs to pay their bills. Colon also described the fundamental consequences of poverty, such as increased hunger rates, as bad for New Haven residents.
Coming amid the Census Bureau’s findings, the recent $40 billion federal decrease in food stamps program funding in Connecticut makes life for those in poverty even more difficult.
“The cuts in food stamps are a tragic mistake,” Colon said.
Matt Santacrose of Connecticut Voices for Children said he is not shocked by the increase of Connecticut children living in poverty, but he finds it “certainly discouraging.” He points out that the recent recession was “the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression,” adding that he was more concerned about the long-term trend of increasing child poverty.
“What we’re really concerned about is that there hasn’t been a downturn in child poverty since 2011,” said Santacrose.
Kids in Connecticut have not been able to reap any benefits of what some experts have described as a recent economic recovery.
“For 1 in 7 kids in the state, things are still really bad,” Santacrose said.
He said he sees the decrease in participation in the labor force as a concerning tend. Santacrose thinks there is substantial correlation between the rate of poverty and the rate of participation in the labor force.
Because of the geographical distribution of poverty, Abraham said, it is especially important for children in poorer neighborhoods to have access to affordable early education. Connecticut Voices for Children has seen that early education can make a huge difference in the general academic trajectory of a student. To better ensure that current financial situations are not passed down to the next generations, Santacrose said, early education’s benefits can be “profound.”
One effort to help families earning poverty-level incomes is the Earned Income Tax Credit. Abraham said the EITC is a better measurement of poverty, adding that current measurements do not consider some benefits that have been put in place. If a family’s EITC is greater than their income that year, they receive a refund.
Abraham commends the EITC for helping low-income families.
“The Earned Income Tax Credit brings low income families out of poverty,” he said.
The Census Bureau’s findings come from the annual American Community Survey.