The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 20, 2013

Minnesota child poverty rate still high

B.E. County's rate highest of non-reservation counties

ST. PAUL — New data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau offers some good news about the poverty rate in Minnesota: It’s one of only two states — Texas is the other — where the statistics are inching down. But child poverty remains stubbornly high.

Overall, the poverty rate in Minnesota is now 11.4 percent. Blue Earth County’s poverty rate also fell but remains well above the state average at 17.8 percent.

Median household income in Minnesota remained flat, at just shy of $59,000 a year. And child poverty appears to be stuck at about 15 percent.

Courtney Peterson puts a face on those statistics. Standing on the street in downtown St. Paul on Wednesday, comforting her baby with one hand, she dialed her phone with the other, calling Twin Cities shelters, trying to find a place to sleep with her two kids.

“Last night we slept outside,” Peterson said, looking down at Zoey. “She’s 4 months old. She shouldn’t be sleeping outside.”

Nobody answered the phone.

Peterson said she lives on food stamps and $710 a month in disability. She tries not to let her older child, 5-year-old Kaiden, know how much she struggles. When they had to sleep outside, she told him they were camping.

It was “one odd camping trip,” she said. “I let him sleep on my big duffel bag, and I just read to him, and he just went to sleep.”

Now they’re surrounded by bags of clothes, a car seat, and some diapers.

“This is all my stuff,” Peterson said. “I’m scared to actually tell him what’s going on because I’m scared it will affect him more than it already has. He developed anxiety from moving around so much, and not having a stable home like normal people should.”

State demographer Susan Brower said she isn’t sure why the child poverty level won’t budge, even as the economy turns around. But she has a couple of possible explanations. First of all, more and more kids live with a single parent.

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