MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal how many children in Minnesota are living in poverty.

Fourteen percent of kids in the state of Minnesota lived in poverty in the last year.

That’s about 176,000 children.

The year before, there were more than 183,000 poor children.

The Census Bureau defines poverty as an annual income below $23,834 for a family of four.

While Minnesota showed some improvement in the overall number of children who are living in poverty, one of the most interesting findings of the U.S. Census American Community has to do with race.

There is a big difference in the percentage of white children who are living in poverty in Minnesota, and the percentage of children from minority groups.

Peggy Flanagan is the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund here in Minnesota.

“We actually think that if there is any child living in poverty it’s too much. So we think 175,000 children living in poverty is something that Minnesotans should care about,” Flanagan said.

She says when children live in poverty they are more likely to have other problems.

“When a child lives in poverty they have toxic stress oftentimes in their environment. And that can have outcomes on social, emotional, behavioral, academic outcomes. These are things that can stretch throughout a child’s life,” she said.

And racial disparities persist.

The Census shows 41.1 percent of American Indian kids and 40.5 percent of African-American children in Minnesota are living in poverty.

It also showed 27.9 percent of Hispanic kids and 22.6 percent of Asian children are in the same situation.

Compare that to 8 percent of white children.

“The face of Minnesota is changing. We know that. We will increasingly have more children of color and more American Indians in this state. And so, we think if these are the disparities, we need to start looking at these issues now,” Flanagan said.

The numbers also show that the youngest children experience poverty at higher rates, with 15.2 percent under the age of six, living in poverty.

Those early years are critical in brain development.

“When you’ve got that many children living in poverty that may mean kids are not stably housed, they are not getting the nutrition they need. This can have long-term developmental effects for kids,” she said.

The staff at the Children’s Defense Fund estimates the cost of basic needs for a family of four far exceeds the poverty guideline of $23,800 a year.

They say a family of four in the Twin Cities would actually need $52,000 a year to cover basic needs like housing, food, transportation, healthcare and other necessities.

The Children’s Defense Fund says keeping the minimum wage to be at a level that will actually allow people to take care of their families is critical.

Also they’re encouraging the state to help more low-income families be able to afford child care by allowing them to take advantage of sliding fees, meaning paying what they can based on their income.

That way more parents could work outside the home.

Again, poverty is defined as an annual income below $23,834 for a family of four. Extreme poverty is defined as less than $11,917 for a family of four.

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