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Advocates Press Campaigns to Pay Attention to Child Poverty

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Monday, July 25, 2016   

LAS VEGAS — Nationally, more than one-fifth of children live in poverty - even though the economy has rebounded and unemployment is low - so child advocates are speaking out during convention season - pushing the campaigns to address the issue.

Dr. Stephen Miller, director of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research, said Nevada's child poverty rate is only two percentage points lower than it was in the depths of the recession.

"We were at 15 percent in 2008, and it went up and peaked in 2012 at 24 percent,” Miller said. “Now we've settled back to 22 percent, which is exactly the same number as the national average."

Put another way, 22 percent of Nevadans have a hard time affording nutritional foods, quality child care and safe housing. Miller, whose organization just released their 2016 Kids Count report, said that during the recession, the jobless rate was 14 percent and the average duration of unemployment was 40 weeks. Now unemployment is close to a record low - but many families haven't bounced back because wages have only recently started to rise again.

Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a bipartisan children's advocacy group, said the Clinton campaign has touched on the issue but said he can't recall Donald Trump addressing it at all.

"If they would engage in the conversation, I think they would find a very receptive audience among the public,” Lesley said. “But because kids don't vote, they don't have PACs, they're not donating to campaigns, they're not on top of mind and so it's a huge problem that we face."

According to Julia Isaacs with the Urban Institute, the rate of child poverty is higher than that for adults 19 to 64, or for seniors. That says something about this country's priorities.

"It's that combination of factors,” Isaacs said, "the long-term effects on kids, the fact that we are a wealthy nation, and the fact that poverty rates are lower for other ages is why it does seem like we could do more to reduce poverty among children."

Issacs said the country has to focus on the issue, because living in poverty puts children at a significant disadvantage when it comes to educational attainment, health outcomes and long-term earnings.



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