Half of Indiana children younger than 9 years old are living in low-income households—up from 43 percent in 2005, according to data released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count.
The report defined low-income as up to 200 percent of the poverty line or about $47,000 for a family of four.
The report looked at children from birth to 8 years old—making a case for more investment in early childhood development.
Laura Speer, the associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says the disparities between low and middle to high income children start from a very early age.
“By the time that they’re three years old, low-income children often hear about half the number of words that higher-income kids hear on a day to day basis and that may have to do with the fact that their parents are often times working multiple jobs,” she says. “They may not be spending as much time with their young children.”
The differences continue. The report shows only 30 percent of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds in Indiana go to some kind of preschool compared to nearly 50 percent of higher-income children.
Claire Fiddian-Green, the special assistant to the Governor for Education Innovation, says the state recognizes the need to increase investment in childhood development.
“The emphasis appears to be pretty clear that we’re looking not only at children overall in Indiana, but we’re really focusing upon low-income youth that do not have access to high-quality early learning programs,” she says.
After it did not pass legislation to create a state funded pre-kindergarten pilot program last session, the legislature instead created the Early Learning Advisory Committee. Among other duties, it’s tasked with setting parameters for early education grants and recommending education initiatives to the legislature.