Girls in Minnesota on the whole perform above the national average in many key indicators of future success, but girls of color in the North star state are faring worse than their counterparts across the nation.
That’s a key finding released Monday by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, in it’s “Status of Girls in Minnesota” report.
“Poverty rates for girls and boys of color are dramatically higher than those of white girls and boys in the state,” Williams explained, “As they move into adulthood women remain in poverty while that gap narrows for men.”
A staggering 43 percent of all African American girls in Minnesota are in households where the income is below the federal poverty line, which is the government’s yardstick for determining eligibility for many assistance programs.
On the bright side, Minnesota’s girls overall are doing better the their peers around the nation.
“Our research shows that Minnesota girls are full of promise and potential,” said Lee Roper-Baker, who heads the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, “They work hard at home, in school and in their communities, they earn good grades, and they hold high aspirations for their futures.”
She said racism, sexism and poverty all play roles in creating that gap. The foundation wants lawmakers to consider the opportunities they have to make a difference in the lives of young women.
Girls of color are also far more likely to become teen mothers than their white counterparts in Minnesota, according to the study, and more likely to report sexual abuse outside and inside their home.
It’s a problem, the study suggests, that is both a cause and a symptom of living in poverty.
“Teen pregnancy among girls of color both limits their opportunities for education and economic stability, and results itself from limited opportunity,” Representative Neva Walker of Minneapolis remarked.
“When girls don’t a future for themselves outside of motherhood it puts them at risk,” Walker said, “When girls don’t have access to contraception or sex education because of lack of means or health care, it puts them at risk.”
Suzanne Koepplinger, the director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Research Center, said girls of color are more often forced to deal with issues others can avoid.
“Many of our girls are facing challenges beyond their years including threats to their basic safety and security,” Koepplinger told reporters, “The high percentage of American Indian, African American and Hispanic girls reporting sexual abuse is startling, and quite frankly, it’s unacceptable.”