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Minimum-Wage Boost Making Dent in MA Child Poverty

The state's poverty rate is almost back to pre-Great Recession levels, thanks in part to the $2 increase in the state minimum wage. (Wonderlane/flckr)
The state's poverty rate is almost back to pre-Great Recession levels, thanks in part to the $2 increase in the state minimum wage. (Wonderlane/flckr)
September 18, 2017

BOSTON – It's a significant drop. The share of Massachusetts children living in poverty is down, and state job growth along with recent boosts in the minimum wage are cited as big factors pushing the positive trend.

The data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey show the child poverty rate for Massachusetts dropped from nearly 15 percent in 2014 to 13.3 percent in 2016.

Andrew Farnitano, with Raise Up Massachusetts, says the report shows the boost in the state's minimum wage from eight to 11 dollars an hour over the past three years has made a big difference.

"The poverty level is down, the state's economy has added more than 150,000 jobs; and we're finally seeing incomes rise for working people, because that hasn't been happening in the past few decades," he explains.

Farnitano says until recently, almost all of the economic gains have gone to those at the top. With the recent wage increases, he says that has started to change, but adds there is still plenty left to be done. According to the new data, more than one in eight children in Massachusetts still lives in households that are in poverty.

Farnitano says both state and national economies are gaining steam, but the slow pace of the recovery from the Great Recession still is leaving many families behind.

"Too many low-wage workers can't keep up with the cost of living, with rent and energy bills and groceries; even when they work two or three jobs - and especially if they are trying to support a family," he laments.

Farnitano says that's why his group is focused on; raising the minimum wage to $15, passing paid family and medical leave, and investing in transportation and public education. He says that way the state can continue to make progress and grow the economy from the bottom up.

Nationwide the child poverty rate dropped by just over 1 percent, but 13.8 million children still are living in poverty.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA