Almost half of South Florida's children are growing up in or near poverty, a new study shows.
More than half a million kids under 18 in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties live in low-income households that earn up to double what is considered poverty income in the United States, the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University reports. For example, a single mom and child would be in poverty if their income was no more than $15,130 a year and low-income if they made under $30,260.
Using U.S. Census Bureau data, the center found 44 percent of South Florida children are in low-income -- or below -- households that barely scrape by although the great majority of their parents work at least part-time, the center found.
The Census shows of those, 21 percent are in actual poverty in Broward, 24 percent in Palm Beach and 29 percent in Miami-Dade county.
South Florida children have been among the many victims of the Great Recession that hit South Florida hard, causing the median household income to plummet 14 percent in five years, according to Census data. Broward and Palm Beach counties' median household income fell to about $48,900 in 2011, the Census showed.
Families have scrambled to adjust to the new reality, slicing nearly $10,000 out of their budget in two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the number of people on food stamps in Broward and Palm Beach counties have almost tripled since 2007.
"More and more families are qualifying for food help," -- including homeless parents with children, said Patrice Schroeder of 221 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast, a social service helpline that helps families apply for food stamps.
Younger parents with children may have especially been hit since they typically have worked fewer years and earn less, said economics professor William B. Stronge, a professor emeritus at Florida Atlantic University.
Indeed, South Florida is no different than the rest of the state -- or nation that has 45 percent of children under 18 living in low-income households with mostly working parents, the study found.
Broward children have fared the best: 39 percent of kids live in low-income or impoverished homes, center researcher Yang Jiang found.
Miami-Dade had the worst rate -- 48 percent -- while Palm Beach County came in at 42 percent, according to the Census data Jiang supplied the Sun Sentinel.
"Child poverty has truly reached epidemic proportions," said Curtis Skinner, who directs the Family Economic Security team at the National Center for Children in Poverty, which is part of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. "When 45 percent of all children in a country live in low-income or poor families, that's a national calamity."
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