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Child-poverty rate spikes in New Hampshire

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Children are bearing the brunt of the economic recession in New Hampshire.

 

Children are bearing the brunt of the economic recession in New Hampshire.

The Granite State has boasted the country's lowest child-poverty rate for more than a decade, so it was shocking to learn from a recent Carsey Institute report that New Hampshire experienced the largest child-poverty rate increase of any state between 2011 and 2012.

In 2012, 15.6% of New Hampshire's children lived in poverty; the state had tumbled from first to 15th place in the nation on this crucial indicator.

The state's child-poverty rate increased 30% during that one year, on top of a more-than-75% increase from 2007 to 2012, according to the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau. This is an alarming trend, and one that should concern our leaders, policy makers and citizens.

The Carsey report doesn't speculate about the causes of such a dramatic increase at the tail end of the recession, but I suspect that any parent who struggles to put food on the table would tell one or more familiar stories: job loss, low wages, lack of health benefits, and reduced community "safety net" services, along with the rising costs of housing, child care, fuel, and food.

This economic squeeze has serious consequences for New Hampshire's future. We know from empirical research that investing in the educational, social, physical and economic health of young children and families strengthens our economy by producing healthy and productive citizens.

Sadly, this knowledge isn't reflected in public policy priorities—in Concord or in Washington D.C. Congress has not acted on President Obama's bold early-learning initiative, a proposal intended to improve educational access for the very young.

While the economic and societal factors that contribute to child poverty are complex, this significant rise in the child poverty rate may well be indicative of underlying trends that are not healthy for our state's economy, and that warrant monitoring.

Mary Lou Beaver of Every Child Matters states it quite well in her recent piece in the NH Business Review: NH's Safety Net for Children Has Holes In It. She calls on the governor, state leaders and the legislature to immediately address child poverty.

It would be money well spent.

Julie McConnell is Director of the Community Loan Fund's Child Care and Community Facilitiesprograms. - See more at: http://www.communityloanfund.org/blog/Noahs-Ark#sthash.iXaR02M3.dpuf
Julie McConnell is Director of the Community Loan Fund's Child Care and Community Facilitiesprograms. - See more at: http://www.communityloanfund.org/blog/Noahs-Ark#sthash.iXaR02M3.dpuf