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Rural Child Poverty Rising Overall, Says USDA Report

More than one in four rural children lived in poverty in 2013, a 7 percentage point increase from 1999, according to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

The report examined data from the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, which found that rural child poverty is on the rise overall, but also varies greatly across rural counties. According to the report, about 20 percent of rural counties had at least a third of children in poverty while another 20 percent of rural counties had poverty rates less than 16 percent.

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Nationwide, rural schools are serving an more low-income children, according to a 2014 report by the Rural School and Community Trust. During the 2010-11 school year, nearly half of rural students were eligible for free- or reduced-price school lunches due to their household incomes. In some states like Colorado, child poverty rates have decreased overall but rural child poverty rates have increased. Children in rural areas are more dependent on public health insurance and more likely to rely on food stamps than their urban peers. Compared to non-rural children, rural kids are also more likely to experience poverty-related problems, like food insecurity, and health issues like obesity and asthma.

According to the USDA report, child poverty has especially increased in single-parent families, where a parent may struggle to earn enough money to support children, and in manufacturing counties where job opportunities have declined. Rural counties with high minority populations also tended to have higher-than-average child poverty rates. 

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