by Michael L. Holton, email@example.com
In examining children and poverty in rural communities, it is clear that we must get at the root of problems despite the barriers
The chances that rural children will live in poverty are increasing. How do we explain this? In examining the question, we found several startling statistics that simply cannot be ignored.
Drop in agriculturally-dependent counties.
In 1950, when rural counties were defined by the prevalent income-generating activity, 2,000 counties were considered agricultural. By 1990 this figure had dropped to 556 counties. By the 2000 census, 420 counties across the United States were considered agricultural.
What a tremendous drop. Not only does it reflect the agricultural consolidation that has taken place, it also shows the wide diversity of income-generating activities that account for what can be considered rural throughout the country.
Decline of family structure.
One major thread weaving its way through all of America, rural and urban, is the decline of family structure. While urban and rural areas experience similar divorce rates, it is clear that poverty rates for children are higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
Single female parent households in rural areas account for up to 48 percent of children considered in poverty. This compares with 34 percent in urban areas. While both figures are startling and unsettling, the difference is significant.
Teenage pregnancy rates.
Another startling statistic that wraps all of child poverty together concerns unwed mothers. Unwed teenage mothers with less than a high school education have a 78 percent poverty rate, while mothers who are married, over 20, with at least a high school education experience only a 6 percent poverty rate.
According to USDA statistics on child poverty, unwed mothers in rural areas tend to have children earlier than those in urban areas. This is also significant in terms of education. Those in urban areas may attend more school and possibly attain a high school education as compared to those in rural areas.
In discussing the decline of family structure, it is not our intent to criticize but rather to point out barriers that have clearly surfaced when it comes to child poverty in rural areas. If we address the root of the problems surrounding child poverty, we may also soften the effect that comes along with the breakdown of the nuclear family.
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Center for Rural Affairs
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