The percent of children in Indiana in poverty has increased from 17 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2012, according to new data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The report also shows the percent of children that live in areas with high concentrations of poverty has more than tripled since 2000. About 11 percent of Indiana children live in places where at least one third of the residents live below the poverty level, up from 3 percent in 2000.
Indiana Youth Institute President Bill Stanczykiewicz says when people live in areas where going to college and having financial stability is not a goal, it makes it harder for children to break the cycle of poverty.
“The fact that folks are poor and live together in a low income neighborhood by definition means they very likely do not have high levels of education or any, or if they do, high levels of employment so kids don’t see that kind of academic and work success modeled.”
Cynthia Nelson says she realized that several years ago, when she was living near Detroit.
“It was nothing but chaos and turmoil. No direction. I just didn’t have a need or want to do anything,” Nelson says. “I just followed what everyone else was doing.”
Then, in a desperate attempt to change her situation, Nelson decided one day she had to do something. She told her children to pack their backpacks, and with all their belongings on their backs, they got on a bus to Indianapolis.
At first, she and her children moved from one shelter to another. Then, they lived in a neighborhood that Nelson says was a bad environment for her children.
But thanks to the Fuller Center for Housing (an organization similar to Habitat for Humanity), she now lives in a house that she and her children built themselves, with help from the organization’s volunteers.
“I have friends that will help me out. Some people don’t have that. I was one of them until I started realizing, I need to start meeting people who were going places, doing things and wanting something,” Nelson says.
Concentrated poverty is not just an urban problem though.
Stanczykiewicz says while concentrated poverty is more obvious in urban areas because of population density, concentrated rural poverty is also growing problem.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates Scott and Miami counties, which are both largely rural, have the highest percent of people living in concentrated poverty.
Percent of People In Concentrated Poverty Areas
Note: Some counties with large student populations such as Bloomington (Indiana University) and Munice (Ball State) have inflated concentrations of poverty because students typically report having no or little income.
Source: U.S. Census Data- Click here for larger map
The U.S. Census Bureau defines concentrated poverty areas as places where more than 20 percent of residents are below the poverty level. That is different from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s threshold of 30 percent.
Still, there is some good news for Indiana children. The data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows education and health status of most Indiana children has improved.
More fourth graders are proficient in reading (38 percent in 2013 compared to 30 percent in 2005), and more high school students are graduating on time (80 percent in the 2011-12 school year compared to 73 percent in 2005-06 school year).
Fewer children are uninsured (8 percent in 2012 versus 10 percent in 2008), and slightly fewer teens abuse alcohol or drugs (6 percent in 2011-12 versus 7 percent in 2005-06).
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated Cynthia Nelson lived in a Habitat for Humanity home. She actually received her house through the Fuller Center for Housing.