DES MOINES, Iowa – In Iowa, 3% of children from birth to age 17 live in high-poverty and low-opportunity neighborhoods, according to a new data snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Michael Crawford, the director of the Iowa Kids Count initiative at the Child & Family Policy Center, says the state does have some rural areas where poverty is more than 30%, but overall Iowa has reduced the number of children who experience that level of hardship.

Crawford says children in high-poverty neighborhoods often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality and toxins – including lead.

“And the people in these areas have less access to healthy food, good grocery stores, quality schools and also good medical care,” says Crawford.

The report found more than eight million, or 12% percent, of U.S. children are living in concentrated poverty. That specific term applies to neighborhoods that frequently have fewer opportunities and where families of three live on approximately $21,000 per year.

Concentrated poverty has worsened across the country in recent years, according to Scot Spencer – associate state director of advocacy with the Casey Foundation – despite a long period of national economic expansion.

He adds that growing up in a neighborhood where 30% or more of the population is living in poverty is one of the greatest risks to child development.

“Living in high-poverty neighborhoods puts young people at risk, and we think that they really deserve to live in communities where they can learn, play and grow,” says Spencer.

The data snapshot shows that concentrated poverty is prevalent in 25 states across the nation, with 17 of those states in the South and West.

Across the nation, African-American and Native American children are seven times more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than white children – and Hispanic children are nearly five times more likely.

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