Child poverty in Jefferson County is increasing more quickly than Kentucky’s adult poverty rate and all areas of the state are contributing to some of the highest child poverty rates in the nation.
Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) released information it compiled using data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey. The data shows Jefferson County’s youth poverty rate is still under the state-average, which is currently 26.3 percent. But it’s creeping up and being just shy of the state-average is not good enough, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
“Adults fare better in Jefferson County than do adults in the rest of the state. Not so much with kids,” Brooks said.
The information released shows Jefferson County’s total population, including adults and children, increased over the past 10 years to 17.2 percent from 12.4 percent. In comparison, the state’s total population level increased to19 percent from 15.8 percent, according to U.S. Census data.
The data released by KYA is for 13 Kentucky counties. It highlights Pike County as having the highest child poverty rate at 45.5 percent. Bullitt County has the smallest child rate at 11.9 percent with hardly any increase since 2000.
The survey also highlights a higher percentage of children are affected by poverty when compared to the total population, which includes adults. The problem partly reflects children whose parents don’t have full-time employment, said Brooks.
“All the (Jefferson County) children who live in poverty level couldn’t fit in Freedom Hall and the Yum Center at the same time. I mean you’re talking huge numbers of children. And we know that that level of poverty for children has profound impact on outcomes in health and education,” said Brooks.
Although poverty in Jefferson County has increased, more children in the county are receiving healthcare, he said.
Implementing a state Earned Income Tax and putting restrictions on payday lenders are two suggestions from KYA, said Brooks. But he said lawmakers needto first put away the rhetoric to focus on the problem.