CAHS and the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) have released an analysis reviewing the latest census poverty data for Connecticut and the rest of the nation. The new figures show a state than far from coming back from the recession stronger, is leaving more families behind.
Although the recession officially ended in 2009, poverty has increased in the last four years: 9.4% of Connecticut´s population was below the Federal Poverty Line in 2009, compared to 10.7% last year. Children are still the hardest hit, as well as minorities. To make things worse, inequality got even worse - the income of the top 1% of US earners grew by 31.4% since the end of the recession, compared to 0.4% to the other 99% of Americans.
You can download the full report here, with additional details regarding education, inequality, access to jobs and food insecurity.
This is a first in a series of posts that CAHS will be doing on the 2014 Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT National Data Book release. Below is our press release that summarizes the reports findings regarding CT’s kids. Stay tuned for updates – including a recap of today’s release event at the Legislative Office Building (find more information and RSVP here) and posts that take a deeper dive into the 16 indicators that give us insight to the health, education, economic-well being and family and community context of our states’s children. The full report is available now here.
Child Poverty in Connecticut Has Increased Since 1990 despite Education Gains, New National Publication Reports
Number of children living in poverty has increased by 50 percent in the past 25 years according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book
Hartford – The number of children living in poverty in Connecticut has increased by 50 percent since 1990, according to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Nationwide, child poverty numbers are up since the recent recession, with nearly 16.4 million children in families below the federal poverty level. The good news is that both nationally and in Connecticut there have been steady improvements over the past 25 years in the numbers of children attending preschool and a decline in the number of students not proficient in reading and math.
Connecticut is ranked 7th overall on the report’s child well-being indicators that span education, health, economic well-being, and family and community context. The state ranked as high as 3rd in the pre-recession 2006 and 2007 years. The KIDS COUNT Data Book evaluates the latest data on children and families for every state, the District of Columbia, and the nation.
Comparing data collected in 1990, the first year the KIDS COUNT Data Book was released, to the most recent available data, the 25th edition of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book reveals that in Connecticut:
- Housing costs are a burden to children and their families. Over 40 percent of children in Connecticut are living in families that spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing. This places Connecticut near the bottom of all states (43rd).
- More children are living in high poverty neighborhoods. The percentage of children living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty has nearly doubled since 1990. There has also been a significant increase in the number of children living in single parent families. In 1990, it was 1 in 5 children; in 2014 the report finds that it is now 1 in 3 children.
- Children are progressing in the areas of education and health. Connecticut’s children have improved significantly in education since 1990 – graduation rates and test scores have seen double digit percentage increases, and the state ranks 1st in the nation on the number of children who report a preschool experience. Connecticut also has a comparatively low-rate of uninsured children, and the lowest child and teen death rate in the country.
“This newest report shows us that Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the country, is falling behind,” said Jim Horan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS). “The report also shows that a strong commitment paired with investment can bring about results. In recent years the Governor and the legislature have prioritized universal preschool access, and this year we were ranked number one in children reporting preschool experiences.”
Horan added, “We need to show this same commitment to our state’s poorest families in other areas – we need to allocate our time and resources to proven workforce training and support programs, greater affordable housing options, and outreach to our most vulnerable neighborhoods.
As the KIDS COUNT Data Book is being released in Baltimore, CAHS will be holding a conversation about the findings of the report, and next steps for the state, at a July 22 event at the State’s Legislative Office Building, Room 1C. The event will begin at 11:00 a.m.
The 2014 National KIDS COUNT Data Book is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being. Data Center users can create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and view real-time information on mobile devices.
The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) is a nonprofit policy and program organization that promotes family economic security strategies to empower low-income working families to achieve financial independence. Our mission is to end poverty and engage, equip, and empower all families in Connecticut to build a secure future.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
On tax deadline day, we want to put a spotlight on a proposal contained in the President's 2015 budget that would expand the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for lower-income, childless workers.
As quick background - the federal EITC is a fully refundable[i] tax credit that is targeted to support low- to moderate-income workers. The credit becomes available to workers with their first dollar of earned income, peaks at certain predetermined amounts (which are based on marital status and family size), and phases out until it eventually reaches $0 for higher income earners.
The EITC has been routinely cited as a highly effective tax policy that both encourages and rewards work - and has seen support from both the left and right. Research shows that the credit produces major long term benefits for children that go well beyond a single tax year -- this study finds that children in families who receive the EITC have higher test scores, fewer teen births, and live in better neighborhoods as adults.
However, the EITC falls short, and should do more, when it comes to supporting young and childless workers. Childless workers under age 25 are completely ineligible for the credit and the average credit for qualifying workers between 25 and 64 is less than one-tenth the average credit for families.
Yesterday the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities created an infographic that further demonstrates the problem with the current structure of the EITC:
The Center has found that childless workers are in fact the only group that are pushed further into poverty as a result of the federal tax code.
In his 2015 Budget, the President has proposed reducing the qualifying age to 21 and raising the credit amount available to childless workers (from a max of $500 to a max of $1,000). The President's proposal also raises the phase out point for the EITC for these workers from $15,000 to $18,000. There are also several proposals before Congress that would expand the EITC beyond the changes proposed in the President's budget -- potentially creating even larger credits for these workers.
A change to the federal EITC could also bring a change to our state's EITC -- Connecticut is one of 21 states (there are total 26 states with a state EITC) that sets its tax credit as a percentage of what is offered on the federal level. We know that the combination of a state EITC with the federal credit helps bring an even larger number of families out of poverty. We should be extending this same opportunity, at both levels, to our young and lower-skilled workers who we know are facing an extremely difficult time in this economy and in this job market.
We call on politicians in Washington to adopt these measures, and to provide much needed support to these working Americans.
[i] A fully refundable tax credit is one where a payment will be made by the IRS directly to the taxpayer in the event that the amount of the credit exceeds the individual's income tax liability.
A new report, released this morning by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, finds that while overall Connecticut's children are doing well compared to national standards, the state's black and Hispanic children remain far behind in important development measures. CAHS is the Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT grantee for Connecticut.
The KIDS COUNT® policy report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, ranked Connecticut ninth, using a first-of-its-kind index measuring child progress.
The report, which can be viewed here, contains both national and state-level data, and the new Race for Results index has been designed to see how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups. The indicators for the index were chosen based on the goal that all children should grow up in economically successful families, live in supportive communities and meet developmental, health and educational milestones. Examples of the indicators, reported by race, include the percent of babies born at normal birth-weight, the percent of young children enrolled in an early learning program, and the percent of high school students graduating on time. Each state is ranked, from 1 to 50, based on a combined "Race for Results" index score.
Overall, Connecticut ranks 9th in the nation. This high-rank masks the persistent and large disparities between races here in the state. Connecticut's white children ranked third compared to their peers across the 50 states, just behind New Jersey and Massachusetts. Black children ranked 16 out of 46 states in the index, and Connecticut's Hispanic children ranked 24 out of 47 states (in some states the population of black and Hispanic children was too small to provide enough data for comparison).
So while the main driver behind our high ranking is from white children doing very well, black and Hispanic children contribute by doing better than one-half to two-thirds of the rest of the country. The good news, however, is tempered when we look internally and compare the scores between white and minority children, to reveal a stark inequality in Connecticut. The differences in scores places Connecticut 39th (out of 46) when comparing white children to black children , and nearly last (46 out of 47) in the difference between white and Hispanic children.
We believe that the findings of this report highlights a troubling reality in the state -- that children of color are not receiving the same opportunities as their white peers. We also believe that the findings are a call to action, and that the index underscores the need to invest in high quality early childhood education, workforce development programs, and wrap-around supports for low-income and vulnerable parents.
We have prepared a short document that uses the report's indicators to compare Connecticut's children with children nationwide - the chart can be viewed here.
As we continue to follow Governor Malloy's proposal to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10, and the President's effort to do the same on the Federal level, we wanted to share with you some great work that is being done by our friends at the Economic Policy Institute (you can read some of our previous blog coverage on the minimum wage campaign here).
One of the most pervasive myths about the minimum wage (second only to the fear that a raise is a job killer -- in a previous post we shared a number of resources that debunk this misconception) is that it is mostly being earned by teenagers who need spending money. This infographic produced by EPI shows us that this is not the case:
A 2012 analysis produced by EPI told a similar story; in that year EPI determined that if the minimum wage had been raised to $9.80 here in Connecticut over 80% of the effected workforce would have been individuals over age 20.
These minimum wage earners are also disproportionately women. This map from the National Women's Law Center shows that nationally almost two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, while here in Connecticut, women are six out of every ten minimum wage earners.
So as we can see -- a minimum wage increase is a targeted reform that will help women and families in Connecticut, and across the country, move out of poverty and towards economic stability. Continue to follow us here on the blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, for updates on the state and federal campaign.
Yesterday afternoon President Obama stopped by Central Connecticut State University in New Britain where he made his case for increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 (current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25, Connecticut's minimum wage is $8.25). Flanked by Governor Dannel Malloy, as well as the Governors from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, the President called on Congress to "give America a raise" and highlighted how the increase would help women and young people.
In our previous post, we discussed the the benefit a wage increase has on both our lowest-earning workers and the state's budget. Several news reports following the event, that can be viewed here and here, featured quotes from Democratic lawmakers indicating the high probability of the legislature passing a minimum wage increase during this legislative session. Tom Foley, the likely Republican candidate in this fall's governor's race, has stated he favors a minimum wage increase. There is also overwhelming public support, with the latest Quinnipiac poll showing voters backing the measure 3-to-1.
An increase in the minimum wage is an important first step in helping our state's families move out of poverty and towards economic security. In future posts, we will discuss other aspects of the President's economic agenda for 2014, which includes a more robust earned income tax credit with new support for single adults, additional job training programs, and expanded early childhood education opportunities.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities have calculated how many people are lifted above the poverty line thanks to the SNAP program. Their finding: a bit over four million.
It is not just lifting out of poverty - it also makes the poor less poor:
In addition to keeping some people out of poverty, SNAP also made tens of millions of people less poor in 2012. For these individuals, the program reduced the gap between their income and the poverty line and made them better able to afford a basic diet.
Even thought SNAP works, the main issue remains: a lot of Americans still struggle to bring food to the table every month.
Data released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that 17.6 million American households lacked access to adequate food at some point in 2012 because they didn’t have enough money or other resources to meet their basic food needs.
With these data points in mind, it would be ludicrous for a political party to cut a program so essential for so many Americans. Unfortunately, that is what the House Republicans plan on doing just this week, cutting $40 Billion from the program. Cutting SNAP is a terrible idea - it is a very effective program that really helps those in need. It needs to be preserved, not cut; doing so will only hurt working families that can ill afford another hit.
Tomorrow CAHS will be presenting the Kids Count data book for 2013 (1 pm, Legislative Office Building, Hartford - be there!) tracking seventeen indicators in child well-being in the state of Connecticut. The book has four main focus areas:
- Economic well-being: town by town data on child poverty, EITC, reduced and free school lunch, SNAP recipients and Care 4 Kids enrollment.
- Health and Safety: town by town data on low and very low birth babies, pre-natal care, infant mortality, child death and Husky insurance.
- Education: town by town data on Pre- Kindergarten experience, CMT grade reading goals (4th grade), CAPT 10th grade goals and graduation rates.
- Family and community: town by town data of substantiated child abuse and neglect, teen birth and preventable teen deaths.
The recession has proved challenging, and the indicators on the data set point in that direction. There are, however, some bright spots in some areas:
- Family and community: two of the three indicators, teen births and preventable teen deaths, had substantial improvements, with 20%+ drops. Abuse numbers, however, got considerably worse.
- Health and safety: all but one indicator improved or remained stable. Even in this context, the only indicator that worsened (infant mortality) only had a modest increase between 2004 and 2009.
- Education: all four indicators had minor improvements in the past few years; preK and graduation rates being close to flat.
- Economic well being: this set of indicator was mixed - poverty is up, as well as kids eligible for free or reduced price lunch at schools. The safety net, however, has helped softening the blow; income support programs expanded eligibility and covered many new families, providing additional support when and where it was needed.
Overall, the situation is not a good one: there are more kids in poverty, and the huge disparities between the poor inner cities and wealthy suburbs in the state have widened. The safety net, however, has helped to limit the damage done by the recession, and our education system, although still showing a huge achievement gap between poor and wealthy districts, is slowly getting better.
We are not improving fast enough, that´s for sure. And we need to do more. But it is not all bad news.
We will release the full report and data from the Kids Count book tomorrow at our event at the Capitol, as well as online. The full report includes town by town data for all indicators, and will be available for download after the event. Join us tomorrow to hear from CAHS´staff and our panelist analyzing the data, and get a free copy of the book.
Jonathan Cohn, in the New Republic, has a fascinating article comparing how states compare regarding anti-poverty programs and its results. On one side, Cohn puts all "blue states" the ones that have voted reliably democrat since 2000. On the other column he has the red states, those than went for Bush and McCain in the past three election cycles. The results are not surprising, but still worth looking at:
No surprise here: blue states offer better coverage on all their anti-poverty programs, offering a more generous safety nets than red states. Some Federal programs have fairly strict guidelines (SNAP, S-CHIP), so the difference is fairly minor in those cases. In others, like unemployment insurance, coverage is up to 50% more generous (unemployment).
So far, so good - democrats spend much more. The important question, however, is how big a program is, but how well does it work for poverty reduction. Luckily, Cohn also has some interesting numbers there:
By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.
Mr. Cohn is wrong about one specific point: we do know that government spending can and does reduce poverty when done right. Ezra Klein points out that looking at total spending, blue and red states are not that far off. Blue state benefits, however, are far more generous than red state ones. As a result, they are also more effective reducing poverty, and in turn probably reducing the total cost in the medium term. A less generous, cheaper welfare state is much less effective moving people out of poverty, so it really never comes down.
Maybe the best way to reduce dependency on government is by making government work well.
The New York Times had a very interesting article yesterday talking about something that looks fairly irrelevant: are health care benefits income?
In July, the Congressional Budget Office — the nonpartisan arbiter of the costs and consequences of government spending — decided that we had not been valuing these benefits enough. In a report on how income and taxes are distributedacross the population, it decided, for the first time, to value health benefits provided by the government at every penny they cost.
The decision stoked a long-simmering debate about how much health care is really worth to poor families who may not have enough to eat. The reclassification of health benefits added $4,600 a year to households in the bottom fifth of income. It shrank the nation’s yawning income gap and muted the increase of inequality over the last three decades. And it changed the picture of what the government does for Americans.
The article has a good discussion on this specific debate, and how it affects official poverty numbers in the US. For instance, many seniors and very low income families now considered poor would move out of these categories, while working families would actually move much closer to the bottom of the income scale.
I largely agree with the CBO with this new calculation – both from a statistical point of view and a political point of view.
For statistics, one very simple reason: that’s how it is usually counted elsewhere in the world. OECD numbers count health care as a fiscal transfer, and it makes sense for the CBO to do the same. After all, it is real money that the government is spending in a real good; if instead of SNAP we had government run soup kitchens it would still be seen as an almost-cash transfer, and this works the same way.
From a political point of view, this change makes clear that the government is very effective getting people out of deep poverty. It really is! There are many, many people in the US and elsewhere that would be much worse off if the Federal government was not around. Medicare has been extremely effective keeping seniors out of poverty, but the numbers barely reflect that.
The new calculation method also makes more clear a big issue with the US safety net and its over-reliance in means tested programs: the huge, crippling fiscal cliff that poor families face when their income starts to slowly creep up towards the middle class. We wrote about this with some detail a few weeks ago, but it is important to keep this in mind. The marginal tax rate of a family moving from 100-125% Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 185-200% FPL is absurdly high if we take into account benefits loss. "Earning yourself out" of Medicaid / Husky is often a huge blow for a family that lacks health insurance and now has to pay full price for it.
Leaving that aside, the big problem, and something that the revised numbers make more clear, is that right now the US welfare system is pretty terrible moving people from not-so-terrible poverty to self sufficiency. But income mobility and pathways to success deserve their own blog post.