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RHODE ISLAND & MASSACHUSETTS NEWS BRIEFS

Report: R.I. worst in nation in housing for low-income children

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WARWICK – Rhode Island has the highest percentage of low-income children living in housing built before 1980 in the nation, according to the latest data from Rhode Island Kids Count.

Between 2005 and 2007, 87 percent of low-income children in Rhode Island lived in older housing, compared with 74 percent of all Rhode Island children, according to the 2009 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook released today.

Nationwide, 63 percent of low-income children lived in housing built before 1980, the group found. Such older housing units are more likely to have unsafe conditions for children, including lead-paint hazards, Kids Count noted.

The report also found that more than 40,000 Rhode Island children – or 17.5 percent – were living in homes with incomes below the poverty threshold in 2007, up from 15.1 percent in 2006. (READ MORE) Despite the year-over-year increase, however, the number of Ocean State children living in poverty was still below the 21 percent recorded in 2004.

Looking at specific areas related to the well-being of Rhode Island children, Kids Count found both progress and regressions.

Between 1996 and 2003, the number of Rhode Island families receiving child-care subsidies increased steadily from 6,077 to 14,333, the nonprofit found. But since 2003, the number of families receiving child-care subsidies statewide has steadily declined to a low of 7,700 in 2008.

On the education front, 68 percent of fourth graders scored at or above the proficiency level on the reading portion of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) standardized tests, up from 60 percent in 2005. However, the figures showed a disparity among income brackets: In 2008, 52 percent of low-income, fourth-grade students were proficient in reading, compared with 80 percent of higher-income students. β€’

Rhode Island Kids Count is a statewide nonprofit that works to improve the health, economic well-being, safety, education and development of local children. It is an affiliate of Baltimore-based Kids Count, a project of The Annie E. Casey Foundation. For more information – including the 2009 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook – visit www.RIKidsCount.org.

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