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New Report on Growing Poverty in Southern States

A new report on children in poverty from the Southern Regional Education Board doesn't directly deal with a new education policy or data, and probably isn't a surprise to anyone. But it will surely trigger inward groans among school officials as they ponder the challenges associated with rising numbers of poor students.

The April report from SREB shows that from 2005 to 2010, the number of children living in poverty in SREB's 16 member states increased by 1.1 million, nearly equaling the total increase in child poverty in the rest of the nation of 1.3 million. (These SREB member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.)

Over that time period, the percentage of children in poverty in those states rose to 26 percent from 23. The rate of child poverty in the western United States rose to 19 percent from 15 percent, but fell short of the child poverty rate in SREB states by 7 percentage points. In the Midwest, child poverty grew to 19 percent from 16 percent over that period. SREB states now have 44.3 percent of all children living in poverty in the country.

"Research on children from low-income families shows that, on average, they graduate from high school, continue to college and complete bachelor's degrees at much lower rates than children from more affluent families," the SREB report states. "Children from poverty level families have even lower rates."

The report ties educational attainment levels as a general matter to income levels, using U.S. Census Bureau data.

Mississippi had the highest child-poverty rate in 2010 (32.5 percent), followed by the District of Columbia (30.4 percent), New Mexico (30 percent), and Alabama (27.7 percent). Nevada's child poverty rate jumped dramatically, going from the 34th-highest in 2005 to 19th-highest in 2010. There were similar big leaps in Wisconsin (40th to 27th), Florida (25th to 16th), and Utah (49th to 41st).

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