PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s median family income rose to $70,108 last year from $61,605 in 2014, but the number of children living in poverty still remains high at 40,566, or 19.4 percent, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT said this week.
KIDS COUNT said the percentage of children living in poverty fell slightly from 2014, when it was 19.8 percent.
Rhode Island has the highest percentage of children living in poverty in New England, and was 24th in the nation. The Ocean State’s rate was just below the national poverty rate for children of 20.7 percent.
All the New England states saw the percentage of children living in poverty fall over the year.
KIDS COUNT released the data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, which provides national and state-level data on poverty and family income.
“Despite the considerable increase in median family income, Rhode Island’s percentage of children living in poverty has remained the same. Nearly one in five – more than 40,000 – Rhode Island children are poor,” Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, said in a statement. “Because living in poverty negatively impacts children now and far into their future, Rhode Island needs to invest in two-generation strategies for entire families to succeed – such as high-quality early-learning opportunities and an excellent preschool through college education system for children, and job training for their parents.”
Children in poverty, especially those who experience poverty in early childhood and for extended periods, are more likely to have physical and behavioral health problems, experience difficulty in school, become teen parents, and earn less or be unemployed as adults, KIDS COUNT said.
The poverty data is based on the federal poverty threshold, which was an annual income of $19,096 for a family of three with two children and $24,036 for a family of four with two children last year.
In addition, 7.6 percent, or 15,981 of Rhode Island’s children, lived in extreme poverty last year, down from 9.1 percent in 2014. Extreme poverty is defined as families with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty level, or $9,548 for a family of three with two children and $12,018 for a family of four with two children in 2015.
The median household income nationwide was $56,516 last year, a 5.2 percent increase from 2014.