More L.A. County Children Live In Poverty

LA Times, Susannah Rosenblatt, Oct. 19, 2006

Reversing a longtime downward trend, child poverty is on the rise across Los Angeles County as housing costs spiral out of reach for working-class families, according to a report to be released today.

An estimated three-quarters of the county’s more than 1.2 million households with children struggle economically, according to this year’s Children’s ScoreCard, released every two years by the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council. The cost of living has spiked more than 40% since 1999, as the county’s median wage inched up to $15.28 last year.

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Yet family incomes are suffering countywide; the study “lays bare the reality that poverty is afflicting every geographic community of Los Angeles,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, chairman of the council.

Latino and African American children still lag behind whites and Asians in health and education indicators.

African American children are more likely to be born underweight or with asthma, or to be arrested, than peers of other ethnicities. More Latino children come from low-income families than other groups, have the least-educated parents and are the worst-prepared for college. Asian youngsters perform the best in education measures, while white children fare better economically.

“There’s a strong correlation between race and how well kids are doing across the county,” Flores Aguilar said. She emphasized the “ripple effects” of poverty, which can undermine a child’s health, performance at school and eventual success as an adult.

Although more children than ever—92%—are insured, the number of underweight babies has been climbing since 2000, the report said.

Violent crime as well as child abuse and neglect are down since 2000, but juvenile felony arrests and youth homicides increased after years of decline.

And while the percent of fully credentialed teachers rose by nearly a fifth since 2000, high school graduation rates have been slipping.

While the number of computers being placed in public schools has jumped 72% in four years, the number of library books checked out by children and teens is falling.

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