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Child Poverty Soars In Cities Child Advocacy Group Reports One-Fourth Of Children In Poverty Live In The 50 Largest Cities

Higher percentages of children in big cities are underweight when born, live in welfare-supported homes and drop out of high school, a children’s advocacy group reported Tuesday.

While 16 percent of all the nation’s children live in big cities, one-fourth of children in poverty live in the nation’s cities, according to the “City Kids Count” report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report is based on 1990 census data.

Among the 50 largest cities, the highest children’s poverty rates were in Detroit and New Orleans, 46 percent, and Miami, 44 percent, while the lowest were in Virginia Beach, Va., 8 percent; Honolulu, 11 percent; and San Jose, Calif., 13 percent.

Overall, the foundation looked at 10 factors affecting young people, including infant mortality, high school dropout rates, youth unemployment and single-parent households.

While some data used in assembling the report are 5 or 6 years old, they still can help policymakers understand the plight of urban children, said foundation spokesman Bill Rust.

“It’s the best information available, and given current trends, we see no indication that things are getting any better,” Rust said.

“States are taking on a greater responsibility for social programs nationally, so they have to know where to focus,” he added.

Big-city children were worse off than the national average in all 10 of the categories studied.

Nine percent of big-city children were low-birth weight babies in 1994 compared with 7.2 percent nationwide.

In 1990 dropout rates for children aged 16-19, urban children outpaced children nationally 14 percent to 11 percent. Twenty-one percent of city children under 15 were living in homes receiving public assistance, compared with 12 percent nationally.

Detroit ranked last in several of the foundation’s 10 categories, with 42 percent youth unemployment in 1990, 45 percent of small children living in welfare homes in 1989, and 60 percent of children living in single-parent households in 1990.

It also ranked last for children living in “distressed neighborhoods,” a composite measure of areas with high concentrations of poverty, female-headed families, male unemployment and welfare dependency. Overall, the percentage of children living in distressed neighborhoods increased from 3 percent in 1970 to 17 percent in 1990.

Washington ranked last in three categories, with 14.2 percent of babies born with low birth weight; 1991 infant mortality of 21 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 15 percent of mothers receiving late or no prenatal care in 1994.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of United Parcel Service, and his siblings, and named for their mother.

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