New U.S. Census Report: Georgia’s Child Poverty Ranking Worsens

Georgia joined the ranks of the ten worst states with the highest percentage of children living in poverty in 2012, moving from eleventh to sixth, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

It’s the first time Georgia ranked among the ten worst since the ranking was first reported in 2005.

The large number of Georgia children living in poverty remained stubbornly high last year as the state struggles to recover from the recession.  Beyond the statistics, the new report underscores the need for Georgia to do more to help struggling families and give them the tools to escape poverty.

More than one in four Georgia children, or 27 percent, lived in poverty in 2012, according to the American Community Survey released today.  While Georgia’s poverty rate for children increased only slightly, other states posted small improvements to receive a more positive ranking.

The consequences of beginning life below the poverty line, $18,284 for a family of three, are especially dire for Georgia’s children.  As reported by the New York Times earlier this year, low-income children in the southeast have long odds against making it to the middle class. The vast majority of Georgia children in the bottom fifth of the income scale are likely to remain below middle class.

Georgia’s poor children deserve a solid chance at a better life. To change the direction Georgia is heading, the state must invest in its low-income families.

Since the recession, Georgia lawmakers cut funding for education, safety net supports and other key services. Those services help build a strong economy with good jobs that can help struggling families climb into the middle class. Continued failure to invest in these important services will hurt Georgia’s sluggish economic recovery and make life harder for these families.

Georgia’s policymakers will continue to face challenges next year as they create the state’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year.  Though Georgia’s agency leaders are not being asked to cut department budgets, the prospect of little new state revenue limits their ability to respond to the normal growth in the need for services, as well as the new needs of the modern economy.

A balanced approach that includes new revenue will allow Georgia to invest in services that are crucial to lifting people out of poverty.  The new Census report highlights the needs:

  • 65 percent of adults over 25 living in poverty in Georgia have no post-secondary education, underscoring the need for increased access to educational opportunities
  • More than half of single mothers in Georgia with children under five live in poverty, stressing the need for subsidized high-quality child care
  • Most people in poverty ages 16 to 64 worked for at least part of the year, emphasizing the need for robust employment supports to help adults and their families transition from one job opportunity to the next

Cutting important investments in education and training is not the way to boost Georgia’s economy and lift families out of poverty. Georgia needs to take a balanced approach that includes new revenues so we can invest in our state’s economy and provide a brighter future for all of our children.

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