Hartford no longer holds the dubious distinction of having the second-highest child poverty rate among the nation's larger cities, but the number of poor children in the city hasn't decreased, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
Hartford's ranking dropped from second to sixth in the nation, but the number of poor children increased to 43.4 percent in 2006, from 41.3 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census.
Bridgeport and Stamford and Waterbury all saw increases in child poverty rates in the past six years. New Haven was the only city that saw a decrease in child poverty.
Waterbury now ranks among the nation's top 50 cities with the greatest percentage of children living in poverty.
Child advocates in the state said Hartford's ranking improved because Springfield, Mass.; Detroit and Jackson, Tenn., increased their rates of child poverty faster.
"Hartford didn't do better. It's just that other states had gotten worse," said Shelley Geballe, president of Connecticut Voices for Children, an advocacy group for children and families.
Waterbury's child poverty rate increased to 33.5 percent in 2006 from 23.9 percent in 2000. Bridgeport's rate rose to 29.5 percent, from 25.1 percent. Stamford rose to 9.2 percent, from 8.9 percent.
New Haven's poverty rate decreased - 27.6 percent in 2006, down from 32.6 percent in 2000.
Geballe said the increase in child poverty rates in the cities is due to the fact that the state's low-wage workers have not shared in the state's economic growth.
Earlier this month, the group issued its 2007 State of Working Connecticut Report. The group found that, since 2001, the state's low-wage workers - those earning about $8 to $10 an hour - had the largest real wage decrease in the nation.
Last year, nearly 17 percent of the state's workers earned $9.91 an hour or less. Working full time, year-round for that amount would leave a family of four at the federal poverty level - about $20,615 a year for a family of four in 2006, the group's report states.
"There is a real wage erosion, strongly felt by people at the very bottom. We don't have jobs that support families, " Geballe said.
Connecticut Voices is urging state lawmakers to implement a state earned-income tax credit, increase job training for low-wage families and invest in high education to combat child poverty.
The census bureau's data on poverty rates were collected by the American Community Survey, a large-scale sampling of households distinct from the census population.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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