Children in Utah are more likely to be living in poverty today than they were two decades ago. That’s according to new data released from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The percentage of Utah children living in poverty rose from 12 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2012. That’s a concern for Deputy Director of Voices for Utah Children Terry Haven.
“Right now we have about 132,000 children living in poverty,” Haven says. “The reality is, that’s a lot of kids that are wondering if they’re going to have enough to eat, and if they’re going to go to bed hungry, so I think it’s a huge issue that we need to address.”
The growth in poverty reflects a national trend, which Haven attributes to the Great Recession as well as stagnant wages. The data also shows that many more children are living in households where more than 30 percent of income goes towards housing. Haven says Utahns can change the outcomes for children if there is a will to do so.
“The data shows us that if we want to become the best in the nation in the percentage of children in poverty, we need to bring 18,000 children out of poverty,” Haven says. “The data shows us where we want to go, it’s just a matter of do we want to be there?”
Utah was ranked 11th overall in the nation for child well-being. The state scored well on measures of health, family, and community support. It’s in the bottom half of states for education, with a higher than average percentage of children who are not enrolled in pre-school.