The U.S. economy has recovered in some respects since the recession that hit us in 2007-08. But it seems like many families still feel the impact, and it is especially alarming to find out that children in rural areas are still mired in poverty with their hard-pressed families.
Although news reports are telling us that most corners of the country are feeling the slow but steady improvements of the economy, a recent report from the Economic Research Service of USDA shows that millions of rural children are still living in poverty. The sad fact is that 85 percent of counties in our country with persistent poverty are in rural America.
“Understanding the Rise of Rural Child Poverty, 2003-2014” is the report released last month by the USDA/ERS. Their research analysts found that the number of rural children living in poverty is rising, despite an overall national economy that is seeing higher income and employment levels for other segments of the population.
While it has long been true that rural America has had higher levels of unemployment and poverty (including child poverty and deep poverty) than the rest of the country, this new report brings important new insights to bear with respect to the pervasiveness of income inequality levels in our country, making it well worth a careful read.
The federal government findings make clear that fighting income inequality is paramount to reducing rural child poverty. This study shows that income inequality is not just the result of higher incomes among the top 1 percent; it also stems from declining incomes among the poorest households.
One immediate way to combat this inequity would be enhanced investments in programs that effectively lift families out of poverty, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Catholic Rural Life expresses our support for that program which is a major part of the Farm Bill (under the Nutrition title).
There’s also the National School Lunch Program which provides low- or no-cost meals to impoverished children. This program has been going on for several decades now, and still we need to serve subsidized lunches to millions of children nationwide.
We also express our support for two ongoing initiatives taken by the Obama Administration to alleviate rural poverty: (1) StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and (2) Rural Impact (an effort by the White House Rural Council).
Both of these initiatives seek to address the challenge of rural child poverty by bringing together federal agencies and public and private resources.
U.S. Catholic Church Response
The domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is an instrument of the Catholic Church working to break the cycle of poverty.
Through their Poverty USA initiative, they provide information and advocacy resources to help those of us involved in anti-poverty efforts to magnify the voice of the poor and vulnerable. This requires understanding the issues, and helping others to understand as well. We can take action in our communities by giving our attention, time and resources. Visit Poverty USA to get more involved.
In 2014, 21% of all children (15.5 million kids) lived in Poverty USA—that’s about 1 in every 5 children. In 2012, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 1.6 million children experience homelessness in a year.
Click here to view the Interactive Poverty Map to find out what the child poverty rate is in your state, or states around you.
This map can help bring to life the statistics and scope of Poverty USA. Use the National Overview to compare poverty levels of states. Use the County Level View for detailed info at a local level. The County Level View also shows places of hope where people are making a difference with the help of CCHD grants.