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Nearly 40,000 new kids will drop into poverty

siobhan 03/20/09

A new report on child poverty in Washington projects that nearly 40,000 additional kids will drop into poverty by early next year.

The report, The State of Washington’s Children, was prepared by Washington Kids Count, housed at the Human Services Policy Center at the University of Washington.

The projection is based on unemployment in Washington reaching 9 percent. February’s rate of 8.4 percent is the highest the state has seen since 1985.

Currently, 226,000 children live below the poverty level—a pretty low standard to begin with. The poverty level for a family of four is only $21,200. If you look at the children who are living below 200 percent of the poverty level, which is widely regarded as a better measure of economic deprivation, one in three Washington children qualifies as low income.

With more parents losing their jobs over the coming year, Washington’s child poverty rate is expected to rise.

“We expect to see an escalation of poverty rates when 2008 data becomes available, and sharp increases in 2009 and 2010,” said Lori Pfingst, assistant director of Washington Kids Count and lead author of the report.

Poverty has effects that go far beyond today. Being raised in poverty can have a negative effect on children’s brain development, health, nutrition, social and emotional development, and education.

The report also estimates that the cumulative effect of poverty on children costs Washington State $8.7 billion annually due to decreased economic output as adults, costs associated with health expenditures, and increased crime.

The Children’s Alliance and other advocacy groups are warning that cutting bedrock programs to close the budget shortfall will leave holes in the safety net intended to catch children as they fall into poverty.

The State of Washington’s Children Report is being pre-released to legislators and members of the media this week. For a copy, you can contact Lori Pfingst at pfingst@u.washington.edu.

- Ruth Schubert