Child poverty remains disturbingly high in Alabama, new Census data show

New Census Bureau data showing that more than one in four Alabama children lived in poverty in 2013 underscores the need for Alabama to do more to help families get ahead and to help children get a good start in life, Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. The state’s disturbingly high child poverty rate – 27 percent, or 3 percentage points higher than it was in 2007 – shows that many families still have not recovered from the Great Recession.

“If we want Alabama to be a better place to live and work, we must invest in our people and our communities,” Forrister said. “Making it easier for people to move up the economic ladder not only helps struggling families, but it also makes the economy stronger for all of us.”

Nearly in one in five of all Alabamians (18.7 percent) lived below the poverty line in 2013, according to data released Thursday. That’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. The state’s poverty rate was nearly 2 percentage points higher last year than in 2007. Alabama’s child poverty rate was the nation’s sixth worst, and the state’s overall poverty rate was among the nation’s 10 worst.

Alabama’s median household income ($42,849) was the fourth lowest in the country last year. It also was down more than $2,700 since 2007, adjusted for inflation. This decline has come amid a growing income gap between Alabama’s highest earners and everyone else.

One way Alabama lawmakers could make life better for struggling families, Forrister said, would be to end the state sales tax on groceries and replace the revenue responsibly. Another way, he said, would be to reverse the state’s recent funding cuts for education, child care and other key services that enable strong economic growth and expand opportunities to get ahead. Alabama has slashed state K-12 funding by more than 20 percent since 2008, more than all but one other state. The state’s higher education cuts also have been among the nation’s largest in that time.

“Good nutrition and good schools are keys for Alabama to compete in a global economy,” Forrister said. “Ending the state grocery tax would fight hunger among our most vulnerable neighbors, and investing more in education would open the doors of opportunity for millions of Alabamians.”

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