The nonprofit health care policy group Kaiser Health released new state-level data on Medicaid and food-stamp enrollment and the numbers help paint a bleak picture for child poverty in this country. The numbers are bad all around but for these five states, they are especially troubling.
In Mississippi, 32 percent of kids live in poverty. That’s approximately 232,628 children with over 105,000 of those children living in extreme poverty. For those extremely poor children, their families receive on average $170 in cash assistance for a family of three. And the poverty takes its toll. In Mississippi a child is neglected or abused every 1 hour, according to information from the Children’s Defense Fund. One child or teenager is killed by gunfire a week. The state is absolute first in infant mortality rates.
2. New Mexico
New Mexico is right behind Mississippi in states with deep, troubling entrenched child poverty. Currently about 31 percent of children in New Mexico grow up poor, or about 153,558 children. Of those, 66,342 children live in extreme poverty. A family of three receives a more generous $447 a month in cash assistance. Of those eligible, approximately 66 percent receive food assistance as well.
Like Mississippi, the strains of poverty come with significant social costs as well. Abuse and juvenile delinquency rates run high with graduation rates at only 64 percent and over 12,000 teenagers dropping out all together as of January 26, 2012.
Louisiana ranks third in our ranking of states worst for child poverty. 29 percent of children in the state will grow up poor. Of the 1,114,759 children in the state approximately 299,779 live in poverty and an astonishing 134,938 live in extreme poverty. Louisiana ranks 48th among states in infant mortality rates. Of the state’s total Medicaid expenditures, almost 90 percent go to providing health care services for the state’s poor children.
Graduation rates are similarly problematic, as are the number of juvenile arrests. Perhaps most tellingly, the state spends as much on its prisoners as it does on its public school students with ratio costs of spending per prisoner to public school student at 1.17.
Alabama ranks fourth, though really, there are a cluster of states that follow quickly behind, so this is almost a meaningless distinction. In Alabama that means approximately 274,906 kids growing up poor and 125,187 growing up extremely poor. And even though the state has over 80,000 children without health insurance, the state opted out of expanding coverage for poor kids in the state via Obamacare.
5. Most of the rest of the south
Coming in at number 5 is a handful of states that share approximately the same levels of child poverty. With 28 percent of the state’s children growing up poor, Alabama ranks just ahead of Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, West Virginia and North Carolina all with approximately 27-25 percent of their children growing up in poverty. These numbers are nothing short of tragic. And they are the backdrop to a manufactured budget crisis that will likely result in already scant resources being sacrificed to America’s corporate class.
Photo from Ted Van Pelt via flickr.