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Report: More Children Living In Concentrated Poverty Areas

More than one in ten children in Indiana live in high-poverty areas.

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Photo: Jashin Lin/WTIU News

While concentrated poverty is more obvious in urban areas, U.S. Census data shows rural areas also have high rates of concentrated poverty.

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 a few years ago. She now lives in a house that was built for her by the Fuller Center for Housing (similar to Habitat for Humanity) in Indianapolis after she moved away from her old neighborhood that she says was a bad environment for her children.

“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.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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