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America's Forgotten Children

8/14/2002:   According to Save the Children (www.savethechildren.org) 2.5 million rural children remain chronically poor. The strong economy of the 1990s did produce jobs for many rural parents, unfortunately, these jobs did not provide wages sufficient to lift their families out of poverty. Since 1995, the average income of the wealthier rural families has risen sharply while the income of the poorest rural families has stagnated. A new report from Save the Children, America’s Forgotten Children: Child Poverty in Rural America, presents the "facts and faces" of rural poverty.

Among the findings:
  • Rural poverty is heavily concentrated in six regions of the country.
    Rural poverty is most persistent and severe in six regions of the country. Central Appalachia, the Deep South, the Rio Grande border, the Southwest, the Central Valley of California, and the American Indian reservations in the Northern Plains states. In these regions, there are discrete "pockets of poverty" where the child poverty rate is two to three times the national average and where families have been locked in a cycle of poverty for decades.

  • Child poverty is greater in rural America than in urban areas.
    Of the nations more than 200 persistently poor counties, 195 are rural. And in these counties, child poverty rates often exceed 35 percent.

  • In the last decade, rural child poverty has begun to mirror urban poverty.
    Rural poverty disproportionately affects children of color and children of single parents; rural poverty has become geographically concentrated in the same way that urban poverty is confined by neighborhoods; and rural children in poverty face the same challenges as poor urban children, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and educational failure.

  • The reasons behind rural poverty are dramatically different from urban poverty.
    Isolated rural communities lack the people, skills and money to support schools, libraries, community centers, child development programs, health clinics, child care centers, and public transportation systems that poor families need to change their lives. Without these essential building blocks, children in rural poor communities have little real chance of breaking free from the cycle of poverty, changing the circumstances of their lives, and following their dreams. They also have very little hope of providing a different world for their own children, who will grow up to be prisoners of the same poverty.

America’s Forgotten Children: Child Poverty in Rural America presents the facts and faces of rural poverty and recommends solutions with a call to action to create real and lasting change. The report gives voice to the rural poor children who have long endured these conditions and who are not part of the national consciousness. The entire report can be read and downloaded at www.savethechildren.org/afc/afc_exec_summary.shtml.

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