Volume 15, No.1, January 2005
Children in Poverty
Tanna L. Klein, Research Associate, MU Extension-OSEDA
There were 220,473 Missouri children living below the poverty level in 2002 according to new poverty estimates released December 4th, 2004. This is a rate of 15.7 percent.
Our youngest children are most vulnerable. There were an estimated 69,736 children under age 5 below poverty - a rate of 18.7 percent. That compared with a 14.0 percent of children age 5 to 17 and 11.3 of the total population.
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What is the Federal Poverty Level?
Families and unrelated individuals are classified as being above or below the poverty level using the poverty index originated at the Social Security Administration in 1964 and revised by Federal Interagency Committees in 1969 and 1980. The poverty index is based solely on money income and does not reflect non-cash benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, etc. received by many low-income households. Whether the income of a family or household is above or below the poverty level depends on income and the number of persons in the household. The poverty thresholds are updated every year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.
In 2002, the poverty threshold for a family of two adults and two children was $18,244.
The U.S. Census Bureau, with support from other Federal agencies, recently created the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program to provide more current estimates of selected income and poverty statistics than those available from the 2000 decennial census. Estimates are created for states, counties, and school districts. The main objective of this program is to provide updated estimates of income and poverty statistics for the administration of federal programs and the allocation of federal funds to local jurisdictions.
The Big Picture
While Missouri ranked 28th among states in percent of total population living below the poverty level in 2002, it ranks 30th, 31st and 30th respectively in percent of children under
age 18, age 5 to 17 and under age 5 living below the poverty line. Missouri ranks 31st in median household income with an estimated $40,309 in 2002
compared to $42,409 nationwide. This is in line with the Kids Count 2004 Data Book's finding that "More Missouri children are edging closer to poverty, and the number of children in programs designed to help low-income families is at an all-time high."
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Geographical Diversity in Missouri
Many suburban counties reported child poverty rates of less than 10 percent of children in poverty. St. Charles County outside of St. Louis was lowest with a child poverty rate of 5.6 percent, and Platte, Clay, Cass outside of Kansas City ranged from 6.6 percent to 8.7 percent respectively. The two other counties with under 10 percent of children in poverty were Osage County outside of Jefferson City (9.3%) and Clinton County above Kansas City (9.7%) - see Map 1.
At the other end of the scale, high concentrations of child poverty, can be found in many counties in the Southeast quadrant of the state. Ripley, Reynolds, Wayne, Mississippi, Dunklin, Shannon and Pemiscot counties all posted above 30 percent child poverty rates in 2002. Also in this high child poverty category was St. Louis City with a rate of 32.3 percent.