“Children who live with one parent are much more likely to live in poverty,” she said. “In fact, 70 percent of all children in poverty live with only one parent. That makes you more vulnerable to changes in jobs, changes in employment, economic downturns.”
Also, many people with children are in their mid to late 20s — an age at which there’s higher unemployment.
Allison Churilla, at Wilder Research, has also been poring over the numbers. She worries about child poverty in part because it can have wide and lasting effects in school.
“When we look at different K-12 measures of proficiency — reading and math — we see that there are these large gaps between lower-income and higher-income students,” Churilla said. “When we look at on-time high school graduation, higher-income students have much higher rates of on-time high school graduation compared to students who are lower income.”
In Blue Earth County, the only area county that surpasses the 65,000-resident threshold where the Census Bureau provides local statistics, the poverty rate dropped just below 18 percent after reaching 19.6 percent in 2011. That 2011 poverty rate was the highest of any Minnesota county that doesn’t contain an American Indian reservation, according to the Minnesota Valley Action Council.
MVAC, which provides services in a broad swath of south-central Minnesota, saw a 4 percent increase in people turning to the agency in 2012 for assistance with transportation, housing, employment and emergency issues despite the declining poverty rate. MVAC also noted that 2012 was the first year the rate declined in Blue Earth County since 2007 and that the number of county residents living in poverty has more than doubled in the past decade — 10,890 last year compared to 5,236 in 2002.
Statewide, 598,000 Minnesotans were living in poverty in 2012 compared to 371,000 a decade earlier. The poverty threshold in 2012 was $11,720 for an individual and $23,492 for a family of four.
This story contains information from Free Press Staff Writer Mark Fischenich.
Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard in Mankato on 90.5 FM or at MPRnews.org.