Inequality among Arizona children living in concentrated poverty

In this 1972 photo by Terry Eiler in the U.S. National Archives, Navajo children make "mud flat bread" in front of new housing in Peach Springs, Arizona.

A new analysis of Census data finds that children of color live in concentrated poverty at rates multiple times that of their white counterparts. 

The analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation also revealed that 30% of Latino children in Arizona live in concentrated poverty, that the state has the highest rate of concentrated poverty for American Indian children, and that Arizona suffers from the highest rate of rural children living in this condition (39% compared with the national average of 11%). 

“The risks for children who experience poverty when they are young are far too great. We have to do more to break the cycle of poverty and help struggling families improve their situation, particularly in communities of color and in rural Arizona,” Siman Qaasim, president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance, said in a statement reacting to the AECF  analysis. 

An area that suffers from concentrated poverty has 40% or more residents at or below the federal poverty threshold. 

The data AECF summarized were from two separate Census surveys: 2013 and 2017. The snapshot analysis summarizes the raw difference between these years. 

In 2013, Arizona had 354,000 children living in concentrated poverty, which was 22% of children in the state. By 2017, that number had declined to 332,000, or 13%. In both years, Arizona’s rate was higher than the national average. 

While the nine-point reduction in children living in concentrated poverty was slightly better than the average reduction nationwide, the state has a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the country. Arizona came in first in all the wrong ways when it comes to racial and ethnic inequality on this issue. 

The data show that 61% of American Indian children live in concentrated poverty in Arizona. This amounts for more than a quarter (28%) of all American Indian children living in concentrated poverty in the entire country. 

Many of these concentrated poverty areas are on the Navajo Reservation, which is the largest reservation in the country. At roughly 180,000 residents, it is more populous than the next largest reservation in the U.S. by a factor of more than three. 

Nearly 40% of people living on the Navajo Reservation are below the federal poverty threshold.


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