Child Poverty Rates In Kentucky Are Still Much Higher For Black And Latino Children, Report Says

A new analysis of county-level data sheds light on how systemic racial disparities are affecting the wellbeing of kids in the Commonwealth.

The 2021 Kids Count County Data Book released this week by Kentucky Youth Advocates found while the state has made strides in reducing child poverty, rates remain much higher for Black and Latino children, compared with White children.

Shamitha Kuppala, a high school student from Oldham county, said the report highlights how factors such as race and income-level can influence a student’s outcome over a lifetime.

“The more we share this information that we found in the data book, the more that we can change those institutions and make life better and provide better opportunities for these students,” Kuppala asserted. “Whether it’s physical health, mental, emotional health, all of those things.”

The report also found the cost of housing continues to affect Kentucky families’ economic stability, with nearly half of Kentucky renters spending 30% or more of their income on rent and utilities, an issue worsened by the pandemic.

Research from the Urban Institute found expanding the Biden administration’s Child Tax Credit would decrease child poverty in a typical year by 40%.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said acknowledging barriers to opportunity for kids must translate into action to support community resiliency.

“I’m encouraged because I think there are palpable, practical common-ground policy changes that we can see in Frankfort in 2022 that will begin,” Brooks contended. “They’re not going to eliminate, but they’ll begin to mitigate those disparities.”

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, said addressing systemic discrimination will involve examining how state funds are distributed, and how governmental and private agencies should change their practices.

“Keep in mind, we’re policymakers,” Neal remarked. “Someone else carries these things out. But once we put those policies in place, which can be the root of all evil or the bedrock of positive outcomes, we have to be careful. We must re-examine this. So we’re going to be doing that. I’m going to be urging that.”

The report also highlighted how Black parents across the state are incarcerated at substantially higher rates than parents of other races. The Data Book found in suburban counties, more than 16% of Black parents are in state custody per 1,000 adults, compared with nearly 3% per 1,000 adults for white parents.

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