RICHMOND, Va. – Despite a long period of economic expansion since the Great Recession, the state of Virginia saw no progress in reducing child poverty since 2008, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Kids Count data snapshot shows that 5% of children in the state, totaling 91,000 kids, still live in concentrated poverty.
African-American and Latinx children in the state are more likely to live in poverty because of systemic racism and policies that disproportionately affect their communities, says Margaret Nimmo Holland, executive director of Voices for Virginia’s Children.
“It results in concentrated poverty in certain neighborhoods,” says Nimmo Holland. “And we’re now seeing the result that even generations later, children in these neighborhoods are continuing to struggle because their families are struggling economically.”
Nimmo Holland says policymakers need to focus on early childhood education and increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to make a difference.
Children in high-poverty areas don’t have access to quality health care or healthy foods – which they need to thrive, according to Scot Spencer, associate state director of advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
He says living in poor neighborhoods often comes hand in hand with fear of violence, which can cause chronic stress linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
“Living in high-poverty neighborhoods really puts young people at risk,” says Spencer. “And we think that they really deserve to live in communities where they can learn, play and grow.”
Spencer says having quality schools, accessible job opportunities and safe places to play helps children become more successful adults.