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Kentucky's Child Poverty Rate Ticked Upward in 2014, Census Data Show

R. Nial Bradshaw

Despite improvement in the national economy in recent years, more Kentucky children were living in poverty in 2014 than the year prior, according to data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About 260,000 Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2014, accounting for more than 26 percent of the state's kids, the Census data show. That's a slight increase from 2013, when the rate was 25.3.

Although the one-year shift is considered statistically insignificant, it means that nearly nearly 9,000 more children lived in poverty across Kentucky during 2014 than the year before. And it confirms a steady increase in the state's child poverty rate since the epic economic recession that began in 2008. That year, about 23 percent of Kentucky kids lived in poverty, according to an analysis of the U.S. Census data by Kentucky Youth Advocates.

It's a trend consistent with the overall state poverty rate, which has increased from 17 percent to 19 percent since 2008, the data show.

Children living in impoverished families are more likely to find hardship in social and academic settings, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

"You simply can't talk about education achievement, you can't talk about health outcomes, you can't talk about safety and protection of children without talking about economic well-being," he said.

There have, however, been small gains in some of the areas measured within the overall spectrum of poverty.

"I am seeing modest increases in mean household income over the year, with a small uptick in the percent of middle-income households," said Janet Kelly, executive director of the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville.

County-level data relating to child poverty was only available in the Census' latest release for the state's most populous counties. Of the counties examined, Pike County, in far eastern Kentucky, had the highest child poverty rate, at 35 percent.

Boone County, southwest of Cincinnati, had the lowest poverty rate among the state's most populous counties at just more than 10 percent, the data show.

However, Boone County's child poverty rate in 2008 was 3 percent.

In Louisville, the 2014 child poverty rate was 24.4 percent. That means about 41,000 Louisville children live in poverty. The rate in 2008 was 23 percent.

(Image via R. Nial Bradshaw/Creative Commons)

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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