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There was a short item on child poverty in today’s Kansas City Star:

Missouri among 7 states experiencing “very high growth” in poverty caseloads


The Star’s Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON | Food stamp data show more children suffer poverty in Missouri today than a year ago….

The article cites a report, “The Effects of the Recession on Child Poverty: Poverty Statistics for 2008 and Growth in Need during 2009” [pdf], by the Brookings Institution and First Focus:

…Between August 2008 and August 2009, the number of people receiving food stamps, or what are now called SNAP benefits, increased by 7.0 million, or 24 percent, as monthly caseloads skyrocketed from 29.5 to 36.5 million participants.1 This extraordinary increase means that roughly 3.4 million more children were receiving SNAP benefits in August 2009 than a year earlier, based on data showing that almost half (49 percent) of SNAP participants are children.2 Tracking SNAP recipient data by state provides an initial sense of which parts of the country are experiencing the most dramatic growth in economic need among families with children and where we can expect to see the largest increases in child poverty during 2009….

Specifically for Missouri:

…Seven states combine very high growth in SNAP caseloads over the past year with average levels of child poverty in 2008 (between 15 and 20 percent, or relatively close to the national average). These states, located throughout the country, include Florida, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, and Oregon…

[emphasis added]

According to the statistics cited in the First Focus report in 2008 Missouri had a child poverty rate of 18.6% with a margin of error of plus or minus 0.8%. This translates into 259,017 children. The child poverty rate in Mississippi was 30.4%. It was 9.0% in New Hampshire. It was 18.2% for the United States with a margin of error of 0.2%.

From the First Focus report:

…What makes use of food stamps, or to use the modern term, SNAP benefits, a good predictor of child poverty rates? SNAP is the broadest federal safety-net program providing assistance to low-income individuals and families. Almost all individuals and families with monthly earnings and other income below 130 percent of the poverty guidelines and no more than $2,000 in their back account are eligible to receive benefits. Nearly two-thirds of eligible low-income individuals do indeed sign up for and receive benefits. Uptake is higher in families with children and/or lower income: the participation rate was recently estimated as 95 percent among poor families with children.10 With such high participation among families with children, children make up almost half (49 percent) of all SNAP/food stamp participants, with their parents or other adults in their household making up another quarter (27 percent) of participants.11 Not surprisingly, the vast majority of SNAP recipients are poor: 87 percent of SNAP recipients have monthly incomes below the poverty guidelines and the incomes of the remaining 13 percent are not much higher.12 Finally, there is a high correlation between state child poverty rates and state food stamp recipiency rates, considerably higher than the association between child poverty and state unemployment rates (0.82 compared to 0.32 based on 2008 data).13…

And in Missouri from 2008 to 2009?:

…Nineteen states were classified in this analysis as having a very high increase in SNAP participants, namely, an increase equal to 2 to 3 percent of the state population (see table 3). These states include six states in the West (Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) and nine states in the South (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia), as shown in map 2. The remaining four states are scattered across the Midwest and Northeast (Maine, Missouri, Vermont and Wisconsin)…

[emphasis added]

Missouri had an increase of 146,198 SNAP/food stamp participants (a 16% increase over 2008) an increase equivalent to 2.5% of the state’s population.

The conclusion of the report is even more distressing and frightening:

…Updated child poverty statistics will be released by the Census Bureau next August or September, providing further information about the breadth and depth of child poverty in the country in 2009. In the meantime, there is sufficient evidence to predict that most states will experience higher child poverty in 2009 than in 2008. Moreover, judging from past recessions, child poverty rates in many states will continue to rise over the next few years, even after the economy begins to recover.

Such predictions are sobering, since child poverty rates were higher in the United States than in most other rich nations even before the onset of the recession.18 Given the negative impact of child poverty on children’s long-term development, it is important to continue monitoring of child poverty rates, under the official poverty measures analyzed here as well as under the new alternative poverty measures being considered in Congress. Given inevitable lag in reporting of poverty statistics, however, it also is important to examine more contemporaneous measures of need, such as the SNAP participant counts highlighted in this issue brief, to get a more timely sense of the effects of the recession on children and their families.

Meanwhile, the republican majority in the Missouri General Assembly fiddles while the future of Missouri burns.